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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Moving into a new realm as a blogger, RUDE comments!

It was bound to happen. I got my first hateful, vitriolic, spewing comment on my last post Dr-logging. Before you read it though, let me set you up with some context.

Before digital cameras, when we were in our teens, my older brother once took a dump so glorious and huge that he snagged my mom's camera and took a photo. I'm not sure if he did it for bragging rights with his buddies or to shock our mother. Whatever his reasoning, it definitely had the latter effect as she was flipping through family photos fresh from the developer. Once she got over her shock though, my mom shared that photo with the rest of the family and we all had a good laugh over it.

One thing I do like about my family is that we all have a pretty infantile sense of humor.

When I got this comment, I felt how my mother probably felt. After I got over my shock and queasiness, I realized that it isn't so bad. I mean, it's just one person's interpretation of a small group of words from a person she doesn't know. The comment isn't funny and it is definitely less tasteful than my brother's contribution to the commode, but I don't take it personally. In fact, I think this comment says more about the person who wrote it, than me, the person she wrote it about.

So, in all it's gloriousness, I give you, Momsoap readers, a huge steaming pile of shit. Enjoy!

Note: I removed the first line of the comment because it insinuated something horrible that I don't want to think about and I think it's bad karma to repeat it.

From Amy, apparently a huge fan:
"Don’t blame your parents for your lack of class.. (sic) You are lucky they still talk to you at all. Looking at this from the outside . (sic) You have alot (sic) more work to do.. (sic) Very infantile. You strike me as very “Me ” oriented and incredible spoiled. Did your Mother poison you? .. (sic) Beat you.? (sic) make you leave home to fend for yourself @ 13? No? then (sic) straighten the f up.. (sic) Show some class and respect. Since you no longer want or need them . Don’t go calling for your slice of their pie…when they die. People like you should live on an island.. (sic) If you don’t teach your child consequences they learn they can do whatever, to whomever, when ever.. (sic) The prisons are full of “Time Out Children” Everyone hates something about their parents or we would live at home forever…. Do your child a favor … Show her how powerful a working mother can be…. (sic) Get a job .. (sic) Then maybe you would’nt (sic) have so much time to bitch about how awful your life is and maybe you would actually have a life . (sic) which means you would’nt (sic) have time to write all this CRAP… (sic)
Your parents are your Parents.. (sic) You will miss them when they are gone and will have regrets because you wasted so much time being a self absorbed child,…REALLY!"

That's the end. Me again.

For the record, Dr-logging is something I do at home, with a couple of glasses of wine or beer, when Annika is gone with her father. And when I said I am still a drunk, I meant the common agreement in our society that once you are a drunk, you are always a drunk. I do not drink heavily anymore.

I chose not to publish this comment with the post because it's insulting, rude, wrong (as in, incorrect) on many levels, and distasteful. Amy may say the same about my posts, but hey, it's my blog. Nobody's holding a gun to her head and forcing her to read it.

However, the ex-newspaper reporter in me couldn't in all consciousness just delete it. However, insulting and gross it is, it's the opinion of a reader. (And it's my first nasty comment! I am a big fan of firsts.) I would never want anyone to think I just post comments by people who love me even though there is no code of ethics for bloggers saying that I have to publish this big steamy pile of poop.

The end.

Oh, p.s. Amy, if you had read very many of my posts, you would have known that you didn't need to write "f" instead of fuck. Obscenities are completely welcome here. Maybe you should let one out every once in a while. It might relax that huge stick in your ass.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dr-logging: The second installation

The first time I ever got drunk I was 15. I snuck out of my house with a friend to meet a boy she liked and he brought along his uncle.

I'm not sure how old he was, but he was definitely an adult. It seemed like he was in his 30s. He treated me nicely though and I had fun. Now that I'm older, I realize that I was lucky to have a met a respectful man who didn't take advantage of my stupid 15-year-old naivete mixed with vodka and orange juice.

The second time I got drunk was about two years later. My brother bought me and my best friend some wine coolers and laughed at us as we fools of ourselves. That's not a judgment on him. Hell, I would have done the same. He was only 20 or 21 at the time. The point is, I was lucky to be in situations where drinking didn't lead me to getting raped or killed in a drunk driving accident.

Oh wait. I'm sorta drunk.

Yeah, this is my second installation of drunk blogging. I'm thinking of making this a weekly installation. Let me know what you think.

See, the thing is, I've realized that my blog has sort of morphed into an extension of me. There's the harsh, drinking, ex-drugging, sexually promiscuous side, which is me during my early 20s and early 30s.

Then there's this mommy side of me that's been more spiritually aware, softer, more genuine side who loves babies and is constantly intrigued by my child, who is in all honesty, cute-as-a-button, but also, just a normal kid. She is amazing to me simply because she's my daughter.

So, this leads me to say what I have to say about my blog.

Fuck you my man.

Okay, not really. I just threw that in because I'm drunk.

And something else, all the shit that has been going on in my life, not cool.

No, it is not cool for you to take advantage of me.

No, it is not cool for you to act like you know something that you don't know.

No, it is not cool to harass me, even if you are the person who gave birth to me. It is definitely not cool to take credit for my life or my awareness. I did a lot of fucking hard work to get where I am today. So fuck you.

You know who you are.

Let me tell you a little something about me.

I'm a drunk. I don't get drunk all the time anymore like I used to. But if I go by the common definition of a drunk, I'm still a drunk.

I'm also a good mom. I'm a damn good mom. I'm not perfect. I make mistakes. But I'm a good mom. I research shit. I work on my patience. I try damn hard to treat my child like she is a human being. I work damn hard to understand her developmental stages and respond accordingly.

Most people would say that being a drunk and being a good mom doesn't go hand in hand.

But let me tell you something about the mom world.

It is filled with disease and hatred and misunderstanding.

I was talking to an AP mama friend this morning. She said something so profound that I feel the need to share it with you, my readers. She said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "People don't seem to make logical jumps when it comes to parenting."

She expounded on that thought and we both laughed about how mainstream parenting says that you should let babies cry it out, then start spanking and giving harsh punishments to children. And then, right, and THEN, they wonder why their children are fucked up.

It's actually a lot like the world of being drunk.

There's denial and misunderstanding and a bunch of bullshit.

Being a mom doesn't give you automatic rights to being a nice person. It just gives you a world where women flock around you and pat you on the back, telling you that you're doing a good job. But the truth is, you're still the same fucked up person you were before you gave birth. You're still a drunk, a slut, a goody-two-shoes, a judgmental bitch, an animal lover, a hopeless romantic, a reader, a TV watcher, a gardener, a cook, a lazy-ass, a smart-ass, a dumb-ass, a poor housekeeper, a slob, a fat-ass, a skinny bitch... a human being.

Becoming a mother doesn't give you any special rights. If anything, I gives you less rights because it is a fucking gift to be able to give birth to a child and watch a person grow. You don't own me. I don't own Annika. She is her own person. I am my own fucking person.

I apologize for the fact that this wasn't as funny as the last Drlogging. I meant it to be, but I have been really fucking angry this week.

Here's a picture of Annika and me with Leslie, an Austin institution. It's blurry as shit because my phone sucks. But there you go.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Public potty

Ruta Maya coffee house in Austin has been one my favorite hangouts for awhile now. But since installing a toddler potty in the ladies room (I don't know about the men's room) they now have a special place in my heart. I have never ever seen a public toilet with a toddler seat. It just rocks.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

If I jump really high, can I reach the top?

Annika was not planned, but I'll be honest here, I've always felt like she was meant to be. It's not something I can explain.

 And no, I did not purposely get pregnant.

I did not want children. I didn't like children. Before I had my own child, when women with newborns were in my presence, I tried to busy myself or pretended to be sick because I did not want to hold them. It felt awkward. I'd look down at the tiny baby and wonder just what the fuck people saw in them. They were not cute to me. They smelled funny. Their heads were floppy. They cried. I was annoyed by them.

Lest any of my mom friends reads this and is freaked out because she let me hold her baby, I'd like to also say that I do not feel this way anymore. I absolutely love babies. Now.

So, keeping that in mind, back to the topic of fate, I wonder if Annika was simply meant to be. And I was meant to be her mother. I cannot even imagine life without her or this world without her.

I've always struggled with whether I believe completely in fate/destiny/divine intervention, or do I believe that we have complete choice over our lives. 

It's pretty logical that I would be pulled between these two sides. I grew up in a family with a mother who was/is a die-hard Christian. She absolutely believes in the Bible, literally, figuratively and all the crappola in between. To her, the Bible is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If you believe in the Bible, it is necessary to believe that at the very least, you are not in complete control over your life.

My father, on the other hand, is an atheist.

Right. (I shrug my shoulders.)

Oh, yes. They are still married. I don't know the answer to that question in your head, so I am just going to skip on over that and keep going.

So, are our lives destined to be, or do we have free will?

Most intelligent people I know, including myself, would likely say, it's probably a little of both. Sure, we can make choices, choose our paths, set goals, etc. But ultimately, we are swimming along in the sea of life where at any moment a great white shark can swoop down on us and swallow us whole, completely taking us off course.

But, that's not good enough for me.

Lately I've been tripping out on Annika, watching her grow. It's amazing to see her turning into a real person, with her own thoughts and desires.

But, I've also noticed how much she mimics us, and everything else she sees.

Yesterday we were out for a morning walk. Before we left, I told her we were going to look at the pretty flowers. As we were walking, we came upon a lilac tree, she pointed at the flowers, way high up in the tree and told me she wanted to pick some. I told her they were too high. I couldn't reach them.

Then she told me that if she jumped really high, maybe she could pick the flowers.

I was floored. Wow. She thought of that herself?

Then later, she was watching a video, Max and Ruby's Christmas. She's already watched it several times.

They were putting up the Christmas tree and when they were finished, Ruby notices that they forgot to put the star topper on. The tree was done and there was no way for them to put it on without messing up the other decorations. Ruby says, "Maybe if I jump really high, I can reach the top."

Ah. So, that's where she got it. I was sure of it as I watched her reaction to the scene. She jumped up and down excitedly and told me that Ruby was going to jump really high.

Watching my child grow up has made me -- an already reflective person -- wonder more and more about life. What it is that we decide? What it is that we think for ourselves? And how much is simply a matter of following along the course of our society and our families? Do we really decide anything for ourselves?

I don't expect to find the answer. There isn't one to get. Not from any human being. But I wonder.

I try really hard not to put things onto Annika. After reading Unconditional Parenting, I am careful about the messages I send her. But it's impossible not to send some messages to your children. In this world that we live in, there are so many expectations to follow, it's impossible to live an unburdened life.

So I will continue to wonder and be impressed with my child. It's amazing, watching a human being evolve. At least she chose to pull a positive message out.

Maybe if I jump really high, I can reach the top.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day to Toyin

I don't often tell Toyin how much I appreciate his good parenting. But today seems like an appropriate time to say that he's a great dad. He loves Annika more than anything or anyone else in the world. He's never said that to me, but I can tell that it's true by the way he cares for her and how he responds to her.

Single men, particularly, Black men, are stereotyped in this country as being lame partners, deadbeat dads, generally bad fathers. But I want to take this opportunity to say that Toyin does not, and has never fit that negative image. He has gone far above what most people in this country expect of typical single dads who are not living with or married to their child's mother.

Annika was not planned. Toyin gave up a promising job in a new city filled with new friends to come live in Austin and be with us. He supported us for the first year and a half so that I could stay at home with Annika, thus securing a solid start to her life.

He sees her every day, even when it's not his night to take her.

He is kind, loving and attentive.

He's a good dad.

Happy Father's Day Toyin!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Stop the insomnia!

And just like that. It's done.

The co-sleeping/no cry it out years of insomnia-inducing sleepless nights are over. Well, at least, for now. At least I'm not getting woken up every. single. night. Anymore.

I actually slept an entire night without waking up for the first time in over two years last night.

I've gotten so used to waking up in the middle of the night -- either with a restless child, or just because my body is so used to getting woken up, I would wake up anyway and lie there cursing the sleep gods -- I started sort of enjoying my middle of the night web surfing. It usually lasted around two or three hours. I'd get loads of stuff done. Check my e-mail early. Hit all my news sites. Read my mama sites. Update my Facebook status. Sometimes I'd even get up and watch a tv show on hulu, then head on back to bed just in time for a catnap before waking up for the day.

I just gave into it. I stopped fighting with my body's desire for a full eight hours of sleep. I decided to ride this wave just like I know I am going to ride through phases for the next several years until Annika matures.

So I stopped fighting it and decided to enjoy it. For awhile I just went to sleep when Annika slept, then I'd wake up and do my evening in the middle of the night. I know. I know. It's not the kind of behavior recommended for insomniacs. You're supposed to stay in bed and pretend like you're going to go right back to sleep.

Fuuuuck that.

I've had insomnia for years. It started in high school. I used to lie awake every night staring at the ceiling, wondering what was wrong with me because I could never ever fall asleep until about 2 a.m.

Then I learned in NurtureShock that teens circadian rhythms are different, so that they naturally fall asleep later and wake later. So much for the idea that teenagers are just lazy asses who like to sleep late.

Then I grew up and I started worrying. I worried myself into a tizzy often enough that it literally kept me awake at night.

Then I got divorced. But before I got divorced, I fought with my husband and he started staying up all night long and sleeping all day. So at night, I laid awake, trying to sleep, but really being pissed off that he was in the other room playing computer games and chatting with women who lived in different countries.

Then I was single again and by then my natural progression was to lie awake at night and then be tired all day.

I know insomnia. I know that staying in bed and ignoring the clock does not work.

So, instead of fighting with it, I gave into it. And now, it's over. For now. At least, it was last night. Who knows how tonight will go.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Celebrating multi-racial families

Looks like I have a new holiday to celebrate. June 12 is the anniversary of a Supreme Court decision that struck down the country's final Jim Crow laws, allowing inter-racial couples to marry and cohabitate. This decision was only a few years before I was born.

It's strange to think that only a brief period of time has elapsed where it was illegal for Blacks and Whites to get married and just one generation before, my daughter would have been the product of a union that was illegal in several states until 1967.

I am glad that the laws have changed. And I think that many people have changed their attitudes about inter-racial coupling. But I think we still have a long way to go.

Learn more about Loving Day, http://www.lovingday.org/

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The weird wacky world of motherhood

Before I had Annika, I loved cheese. On any given day, I salivated at the thought of a soft, rich block of cheddar. Cheese crackers, chips and queso, forget BLTs, I made CLTs, cheese sandwiches, with tomato and lettuce, mozzarella melted over spaghetti, cheese quesadillas, burritos with extra cheese, chunks of cheese in my salads, chunks of cheese as a side dish with eggs over easy, enchiladas, lasagna, nachos, cheesy casseroles, apples and cheese or grapes and cheese, as a snack, were all part of my routine pre-baby diet. 

Once, when Toyin and I were still a couple, he told me that if he ever considered buying me a box of delectable bon bons, he would exchange it for a large sampler platter of cheeses from around the world.

I never thought I would be able to live without cheese. The thought of a diet that did not contain soft, melting, savory goodness left me feeling depressed.

I loved cheese.

Now? Eh, I can take it or leave it. It's nice. It's good. Sometimes, I even sort of wish that I still loved it as much as I used to. But for the most part, the love affair has melted into a fond and ever-so-slight wistfulness that I will never again experience the rich salivation for my beloved cheddars, monterrey jacks and mozzarellas, and yes, even Velveetas, of the world. I still like it. But I'm starting to realize that I could live without it.

If you've read my blog for very long, you've already figured out that I swear a lot. When I was pregnant, I was driving along one day listening to NPR. They story was about the effects of swearing around children. My phone rang. It was Toyin, calling to tell me that I needed to listen and he was going to send me a link so that I could hear it. Before he was done talking, my best friend beeped in on the other line. Can you guess why she was calling? It just so happened she was listening to NPR at the same time.

I swore a lot. Their concerns were not irrational. Actually, they were quite accurate.

Before I gave birth I just figured that when I had a child, I would go right along being the same foul-mouthed, cheese-loving person I've always been. I thought I would be one of those cool moms who tells her kids that it's okay to swear as long as they don't do it around certain people and in certain settings.

What I didn't count on was that it would start before she's old enough to understand that it's inappropriate sometimes.

Yes, I am duly horrified when I hear my 2-year-old drop something and go, "Fuck!"

Well, at least she's using it in the proper context.

I tried to give it up.

I exchanged shit, for poop. I rarely say hell or damn anymore. But the F-bomb has been the hardest one for me.

It's my favorite. I know mothers aren't supposed to admit to favoritism, but I am no saint. I like the F-bomb. I particularly like saying motherfucker. But that one's easy to switch out for mofo. Sure, people will still know what Annika is saying if she says it, but it doesn't sound nearly as bad as the full-blown version.

I tried switching fuck for frack, based on BSG, the best show ever made. But really, when a 1 or 2-year-old says frack, it still sounds like fuck. So, I'm pretty much screwed on that one. I just hope she's reasonable and agrees not to get me into trouble by using it at school and around her grandparents when she is old enough to understand the ramifications and the harsh judgments that will rain down on her mother. 

 My point is, motherhood changes things that we never expected it to.

A little over two years ago, after I went through 19 1/2 hours of torturous and hallucination-inducing labor that ended with a weak request for an epidural, three point five hours of pushing and me begging them to rip my daughter out of my body with forceps (no, didn't happen, I pushed her out), I thought that had been my induction into the world of motherhood.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

That was the easy part.

Pregnancy and labor, however strengthening, philosophical and intense they may have been, were not even close to the mind-bending changes that would come along with being a mother.

The stuff that people always say will change, is all true. You can't go on a trip at the drop of the hat. You can't make love in the rain on a sandy beach when you are carting around a toddler with you. You're stomach gets flabby. You have to eat healthy and keep vitamins stocked at all times.

But there's stuff that you don't expect.

Like, picking your friends based on how old their children are. Getting into nitpicky fights in online forums over which parenting methodology is best. Deciding on where you will live based on school districts. Realizing that your breasts really are that saggy, and they are not going to go back to the way they were before despite all the denial and reassurances you gave yourself during your pregnancy that they would. Waking up one morning and realizing that you haven't exercised in six months and you don't really care and I'll just have another beer once the kid is in bed instead of doing those 50 sit ups you swore you would do.

The world of mothering is not to be entered in to lightly. Motherhood changes you. Fuck. Well, maybe not completely.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A glimpse in to the world of being Bi-racial

I've been reading a book called, Half and Half. It's a compilation of essays by writers who are Bi-racial and/or Bi-cultural. All of the essays are compelling. But I wanted to share part of a particular one. It is written by James McBride, who is, like Annika, half White and half Black. I won't comment on it. It speaks for itself.

"I'm a black man and I've been running all my life. Sometimes I feel like my soul just wants to jump out of my skin and run off, things get that mixed up. But it doesn't matter, because what's inside is there to stay no matter how fast you sprint. Being mixed feels like that tingly feeling you have in your nose when you have to sneeze -- you're hanging on there waiting for it to happen, but it never does. You feel completely misunderstood by the rest of the world, which is probably how any sixteen-year-old feels, except that if you're brown-skinned like me, the feeling lasts for the rest of your life..... I hate it when people see my brown skin and assume that all I care about is gospel music and fried chicken and beating up the white man. I could care less. I'm too busy trying to live.

"Once a mulatto, always a mulatto, is what I say, and you have to be happy with what you have, though in this world some places are more conducive to the survival of a black white man like me than others... Washington is a town split straight down the middle -- between white and black, haves and have-nots, light-skinned and dark-skinned -- and full of jive talkers of both colors. The blacks are embittered and expect you to love Marion Barry unconditionally. The whites expect you to be either grateful for their liberal sensibilities or a raging militant. There's no middle ground."

Friday, June 4, 2010

Learning how to chill

Several years ago when I was living in Detroit and working at a bank in Grosse Pointe Woods -- an affluent and very White suburb that juts up against Detroit's border -- I got a lesson about race that is coming in very handy right about now.

It's funny how life teaches you everything you need to know, before you need to know it.

The bank I worked for was typical in that almost all of the employees were women. However, there was a divider. It was race. At any given time, we were usually about half White and half Black, sometimes fluctuating higher on the White side.

When I first started working there, the racial divide did not strike me as very pertinent. I had worked with all various shades of people in my life. I had lived in Okinawa, Japan for three years on a U.S. Air Force base where I worked with more Japanese and Filipinos than Whites. (It seems in some areas of the world, U.S. military men have a penchant for marrying Filipinos, hence, the high number on base.) So, I believed that I had a little bit of insight as to what it was like to be a minority.

Having moved around the world and back, I had become acquainted with learning about cultural differences since I had left my small hometown of Abilene, Texas.

But in Detroit, racial tensions run high, even to this day.

When I moved to Detroit, I was a naive 26-year-old. I had had a number of friends who were of different races and skin colors, but for the most part, I was sheltered from any major racial divide growing up.

It didn't take long for me to realize the division at work. I was used to women taking sides with each other during the fights that are usually a result of a hormonal imbalance. But no matter who your friends were, the racial division was as clear as Moses parting the Red Sea when a the fight was between a White woman and a Black woman.

While living in Okinawa, my best girlfriend was a Black woman from Cleveland. In my naivete I told her once that I believed the United States had eradicated the problems with race due to affirmative action and desegregation. I informed her that with a few exceptions, for the most part, most Americans were no longer racist. She assured me, in no uncertain terms, that I was highly highly mistaken.

So, there's the background to my story.

At the time this happened, I had been working at the bank for a couple of years. One morning I was sitting in our drive through area -- a small isolated building -- with two other co-workers. One was a Black woman and the other was White.

The White woman was someone who I found particularly annoying for a variety of reasons. She had a cackling laugh. She was a know-it-all. She wasn't as smart as she liked to think she was. She told stupid jokes. Her husband was a dick, but she seemed to think he was god's gift to the world. For all of these reasons, I hated it when she began to speak.

So there I was that morning, drinking my coffee and listening to this cacophonous harpie. Somehow, she got on the topic of what ended her husband's career in the Army

Harpie: "So, yeah, my husband is not afraid to tell anyone off! He will tell you what he thinks about anything."

Me: "Really."

Harpie: "Yeah, let me tell you about why he got kicked out of the Army."

Me: "Ok."

Harpie: "Well, his commanding officer gave him an order once and he did not want to follow it. Oh, did I mention that he was Black? Yeah, his C.O. was a Black dude. And so anyway, my husband told him he was not going to take any orders from a n--ger."

(Reminder that the other co-worker sitting in the room was a Black woman.)

I froze.

I could feel my whole body tensing for the fight I was SURE was about to happen between my co-workers. I was prepared to jump to the Black co-worker's defense and if it came to it, help her make a complaint to management.

Harpie was laughing and looking at me, waiting for the laughter.

I just stared at her.

I looked up at my other co-worker. She was counting money. She continued to count. She didn't flinch. I wondered if she had not heard harpie speaking. But I knew there was no way she could not have heard.

I said nothing.

Harpie continues laughing as if it's the funniest story she's ever told and the other co-worker never said a word.

Later I asked her why she said nothing. Did she not HEAR this bitch using the N word?

She laughed and she said to me, "Martha, you can't tell ignorant people anything. The best way to deal with shit like that is to ignore it. If you let it bother you, then they have won. See, they want it to bother you."

It wasn't the only time I heard that in my years of living in Detroit. But it was the first time.

That incident stuck with me for years and I would play it over and over again in my head. At first wishing I had said something, gotten irate, complained to management myself.

Then I would hear it again from various minority friends as the years went on. I began to accept it as truth, but it still didn't resonate with me because I am used to jumping up and down and screaming for justice. I like to get passionate. I enjoy arguments and debate.

Then this week, something happened that brought this memory to the forefront of my mind. When it comes to what people believe as truth about race (really about anything) you can't tell them they are wrong. Especially when it is an innocent gesture.

You see, the harpie didn't even see what she had said was wrong.

I'm starting to have flashes of what kind of racist comments I'm going to have to shield Annika from. Most of them will not be nearly as obvious as that harpie. Most of them will not realize they have said anything wrong. Most of them will not believe they hold racist attitudes. I know the harpie didn't think of herself as a racist.

I'm realizing that I will have to start educating Annika now to listen to herself when it comes to that feeling of, "I don't know why that bothers me, but it does."

I can't leave it all up to Toyin even though he will likely have had some life experience to relate to her on that level. I don't have that.

This week a remark in an online forum led me to have a conversation with Toyin about racial attitudes. He explained to me that just because people make missteps or just don't get it, doesn't mean I should get all fired up.

We also talked about the apathy I felt last week after the nanny incident.

He said something to the effect of, "Instead of getting pissed off, maybe you should try to educate."

To which I retorted, "Why, just because I have a Bi-racial child, it's now my job to educate people?" 

To which he quietly responded, "Yes."

Oh. Right.

So, I have decided to chill out over faux pas.

I have decided that apathy is not the answer. Neither is fiery anger. Because really it's all the same.

And now, looking back, I realize that if it wasn't for all my experiences and compassionate friends who took the time to educate me, I would not have the knowledge I have today.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tips on co-parenting through divorce

I got a call last week from an acquaintance, another mom who is thinking about divorce. She wanted to ask me about co-parenting. Her biggest concern? Spending the night away from her daughter, who, like Annika, is 2.

I could relate because ever since Annika was a tiny newborn, this was also my biggest concern.

When she was an infant I worried that spending the night away from me would tear us apart and destroy our tender and still-forming attachment. I worried that she wouldn't understand what was going on. I worried that she would have attachment issues if she spent the night away from me too soon. 

Ironically, this phone call came only a couple of days after Annika had her first real sleepover at Toyin's.

A few months ago we attempted a sleepover, but only out of desperation because I had an ear infection and I was in severe pain. (Yes, I know I need to migrate my old posts over to the new site, I'll get to it. :)

I felt torn about having her spend the night at Toyin's. I have been co-sleeping with Annika all of her life. She still wakes up a lot.

On the one hand, I felt like she wasn't ready because she still nurses at night. I also think she can do it, and she could easily be ready. There's a mental leap she needs to make and I think sleeping at Toyin's is just the impetus she needs.

We've gone through some rough patches surrounding nighttime nursing and made attempts at night weaning. I've given up. This kid likes to nurse.

Now that she can form proper sentences she has recently been very verbal about how much she likes my milk. I used to think that she wanted to nurse because she wanted the closeness. But she has told me lately that she wants milk.

Once I asked her if she'd like some rice milk and she leaned over to me, pointed at my breast and said, "No, I want that milk!"

How could I say no?

So, in reality, she doesn't need to nurse anymore. She can fall asleep without nursing. The attachment between us is solid. She and Toyin are attached, but they don't have quite the same bond that she and I do. I think this is partly due to the sleeping arrangements. Other than nursing, it's the one thing that has kept them from being as close as we would like, ideally.

Additionally, Toyin and I are both ready for her to start spending the night with him, for different reasons.

Sooo, back to the co-parenting conversation.

My friend wanted to know, basically, how does co-parenting work? We had a brief conversation. What I told her was this.

1. You must always, always put your child first in decision-making and when interacting with your partner.
2. Both of you must be committed to ensuring that your choices and how you interact with each other put your child's needs first.
3.You must (try to) avoid doing things out of spite or pettiness.

Coming from me, the world's most immature 38-year-old, it's kind of funny. I mean, I've done things... I could totally go off on a tangent here, but I need to stick to my point.

The truth is, motherhood has forced me to grow up. I'm not going to lie and say that Toyin and I have a perfect relationship or that we are always friendly with each other. But I do believe deep in my heart that we have done a good job of putting Annika first.

I really do.

That's not to say that we have always put Annika first, or that we haven't had spite-filled and angry interactions. But really, what couple can say that they have always behaved perfectly around their children? It doesn't happen.

But at the core of our connection, lies the desire to ensure that Annika's well-being is what drives our decisions.

People who choose to co-parent with an ex must function like a marriage in many respects.

You must be able to discuss things like eating habits, potty training, sleep habits. You should find a way to make decisions about these together. You also must trust your partner to make decisions about these things when you aren't around. You have to relinquish control, much the same as if you were married or cohabiting.

Living nearby helps.

It makes it easier to visit your child if you are not the custodial parent. Visitation times should be made considering what is best for your child, not what is convenient for the adults. They should be regular and consistent. But they should also be flexible if that fits your lifestyle.

You should be willing to spend time together as a family. Going out to dinner with each other or meeting at a park to hang out and play with your child together will make a world of difference.

One of Annika's newest phrases is, "We're doing it together!"

She got this from our walks around the neighborhood when we had to stay together and watch for cars. Instead of telling her to stay with me, or not to run away, I pointed out that we should walk together. She loved that and has made the connection in many other things that we do.

And lately she's been pointing out that we (all three of us) should go for walks "together." We do. We always have. She likes it and I can see that it makes her feel happy.

Since she began sleeping over at Toyin's, she's hit her second wave of separation anxiety. It's been really hard. She's been telling me that she wants to stay with me, that she doesn't want to go with Daddy.

But Toyin and I have agreed that we must be consistent. So we are sticking with our regular routines and doing things together.

It seems to me like many people think that if they get divorced the only option is to have court-regulated visitation with one custodial parent and another part-time parent.

I think this attitude toward parenting is a tragedy for the child. It is the general consensus among mainstream thought that children suffer because of divorce and in the long run they grow up more securely if parents are married.

I think that's because most divorced parents don't put their children's best interests at the core of their decision-making. I think that when people split up, they start putting their needs first. That, right there, is why the children suffer. Not because of the divorce. But because the parents stop putting their children first.

I'm here to tell you that co-parenting can work. It's tough work, just like a marriage, which is probably why most people don't do it. But it is possible.