Today was hectic and wintry and ended with pink vomit. It helps to remember that I love these people tremendously, and soon we will be back at the ocean.
Today was hectic and wintry and ended with pink vomit. It helps to remember that I love these people tremendously, and soon we will be back at the ocean.
When Lauren and I met a year ago, we had a couple obvious things in common: we are both grad school quittas, raising young daughters who are close in age. We are feminists who love pop culture.
The more we talked, the more connections bubbled up: We are writers who didn’t have writing as a primary part of our identity or daily life. We have had intense relationships with music, fan communities, and hippie boys. We love reading and teaching young adult novels.
Mama Nervosa was founded when Lauren and I were saying goodbye, standing across a kitchen counter from one another: we should blog together, Lauren said, completely casually, as if this were not the most awesome, amazing, generous offer anyone could have made to me at that moment. Seriously, she could have handed me $100 and it would have been less awesome than an invitation to blog together.
Over the course of the past year blogging together, we have had several conversations about what exactly Mama Nervosa is: Are we a mommy blog? A feminist blog? A post ac or alt ac blog? Are we writers? But we can never seem to narrow it down to a single category or check box: we are messy, overlapping, we don’t fit.
Mama Nervosa is motherhood and memoir, quitta and adjunct and post ac, feminist and funny. We are not a reliable product: we have no posting schedule, no length requirements, we begin regular features and wander away from them.
If we have a narrative throughline, a recurring theme that links our posts on topics as varied as loving Neil Young, growing up in Tulsa, quitting grad school, teaching Adrienne Rich, missing the ice cream truck, and falling in love, it’s our willingness to expose the process. If Mama Nervosa has a core belief it’s this: if there is grace to be found in this world, we are more likely to stumble into it along the way than to see it shining brightly ahead of us at some mythical finish line. I’m writing it down as I go, trailing blog posts and cheerios behind me, grateful to be here now, even if I’m not sure where I’m going.
I held a gun for the first time last month.
It was during our visit to Tulsa over Thanksgiving. Both my Dad and my father-in-law had made recent gun purchases, and my father-in-law was especially eager to take his son out to the shooting range to try the AR-15, the Sig Sauer handgun, and the Glock. These are the same weapons recovered from Adam Lanza’s body. When they got back, Brian asked if I’d ever held a gun. I said no.
I don’t know anything about guns. My Dad got a gun when I was in high school, and I was appalled in a very dramatic, teenagery way. He joined the NRA when I was in college and became fairly active in the local branch, attending their galas, writing his legislators. I’d always thought of my Dad as an aging hippie, but he’s really very Midwestern and conservative. He grew up in a cornfield in Illinois and he’s a lot more like my neighbors in Pleasantville than, say, Jerry Garcia (although he did have gorgeous long locks in the 70s). We’ve disagreed on gay marriage, abortion, presidential candidates, and guns. A few years ago, I gave him a gift card to Cabela’s for his birthday and he said, “Oh good! I can shot those rabbits that are eating the plants in our yard.” I was distraught about the bunnies. He was confused about why that would bother me. The rabbits were ruining the petunias.
I love my father. I love him the way girls love their Daddies. I respect him to a nearly irrational degree, even though I disagree with him in so many ways. My Dad is smart. He’s thoughtful. We talked about the Republican primaries last year and he said he based his decision not on what any candidate says, but on their voting records. He liked Michelle Bachmann. I disagreed, but it’s hard to argue with that decision-making. He was far more concerned about the economy than social issues, but he loves his guns. I love him, but guns freak me out.
I recently wrote:
A couple of years ago, my husband and I went through a really bad period in our marriage. There was a lot of fighting. At one point, he said to me, “You’re more interested in being right than in maintaining this relationship.”This… has become a touchstone for me when I start to feel myself getting worked up over ideological differences. I used to think that hypocrisy was the absolute worst thing a person could do… Now as I get older and see how flawed and complicated life is, I now think that self-righteousness might be the most damaging and problematic attribute. Believing that you are right above all others, and being willing to sacrifice relationships on principle? That divides. That hurts. I would rather be a hypocrite with strange allies than alone and convinced I’m right.
At the dinner table in November I thought of this line as listened as my husband (who no longer owns a gun) and our fathers talked shop: ammo, pistols, kickback, grip, scopes.
I thought about my friend, R, a co-teacher and office mate who once turned to me and said, “Listen, Lauren. I want to tell you about this because I know you won’t judge me. I love shooting guns.” She got a shotgun for her birthday. She described the satisfaction of sharpshooting; the strange communal experience of shooting at a range with other enthusiasts. I thought to myself, “I need to be less of a judgy dick about this. I don’t get guns, but there’s clearly an appeal here. They make people I love happy. Maybe I’ll get Dad that refill kit he wants for Christmas.”
Brian described shooting the assault rifle as living in an action film. He said it conjured Predator.
I made a list of topics to blog about during our long drive home. “Guns” was at the top.
We live in the country. Hunting is a big deal here. My daughters’ friends’ families will have guns. We will teach our girls to safely handle firearms. We will have to, because the likelihood of accidental injury or death dramatically increases when there are guns in the home, even if it isn’t our home. We will have to because of their grandfathers’ arsenals, which are kept unloaded and locked in safes, but they’re still there. Because we live in a small town, a sleepy town; a low poverty, mostly white town, a place where you’d never expect anything like this to happen.
We will do this because holding a gun, a real gun, does not feel like a toy. It’s heavy. It’s serious. It’s cold. I thought, “How can people carry these and wave them around? How heavy must a rifle be? A machine gun?” You forget they’re made of metal and metal is fucking heavy. You can’t just sling ‘em around like Doc Holliday. The weight reminds you. You’d have to carry that weight with you. It’s not easy. You have to be purposeful with a gun. You have to know what you’re doing.
Eddie Izzard has this great line. “The National Rifle Association says that guns don’t kill people, people kill people… but I think the gun helps!”
I know a guy who does the crime beat for a newspaper and on facebook he said that crazy people will find a weapon if they want to, so if we treat the crazy people (the mental illness thing), then the guns become “irrelevant.” He says he’s seen baseball bats, VCRs, knives, etc, used as weapons. A caller to On Point on Monday made the point that cars are the number one killers of children, and we don’t plan on banning them, do we?
But the thing is, I always think, and don’t always say, that those objects have other uses. We drive in our cars to get places. We hit baseballs with bats. Grandma watches movies on our VCRs. But guns do nothing other than kill. Or give people practice at eventually killing something, I guess. They’re heavy and expensive and their whole point is to end life. At some point, if they’re around? You know? They’ll be put to use. So I’m just not convinced that these are analogous in any way. I’m loath, I’m really loath to say, that they should be freely available to be carried, concealed, purchased, and used all over society forever. I’m really loath to say that schoolteachers ought to be trained in weaponry. I’m really loath to say that the right to own one is more important than the right to not live in complete, stunned horror. Or my daughters’ right to go to kindergarten, or the movies, free from the fear of being shot. I don’t understand how more weapons in more places adds up to better safety.
Stricter gun control makes sense to me, but I know it’s not as simple as that. I know because I’ve been grilling my husband about guns via gchat and realizing how little I know about guns and what they are used for, how they can be modified, how you buy them, why you buy them, why people love them. I’m ignorant on all fronts and fueled by fear. As a friend recently said, “I’m getting really sick of all the gun control/mental illness talk lately, because it seems like the people who are most frothy are the ones who know the least about both guns and mental illness.”
So, I have some learning to do.
I keep thinking that I should call my Dad to check on him and see how he’s doing. I keep thinking that he would be a good person to talk to about what could be done to make this less likely to happen. Because he knows so much more than I do about guns, laws, and regulations. And he loves his granddaughters.
On the morning those babies were killed, Black Girl Dangerous posted this on facebook:
This country was founded on the killing of innocent children, particularly black, brown and red. Right now, U.S. drones are killing innocent children in the Middle East. What happened today in Connecticut is terrible and heartbreaking. But in the midst of all the usual media jibberish about monsters toting guns, let’s remember that violence against children is perpetuated at every level of American existence, every day. We only get outraged when the children look like the babies who died today.
And I thought, “Fuck you!” and then I thought, “Dammit, she’s right!” Newtown is horrifying because we expect our children — our privileged children — to be protected from Things Like That. It’s horrifying to see the war waged out there, on other people and their beautiful little kids, brought into our safest, softest places. It’s horrifying to think that we have a hand in that kind of devastation, every day, in other schoolhouses, other families.
And now our kids are just like their kids. They’re all our kids.
In the story of Jesus’s birth, the Angel spreads the good news and says “and on Earth peace toward men of good will.” (Not, I guess, “good will towards men,” if you correctly translate the Latin genetive case.) Some people get all huffy about this translation like, “Hey, see, it’s not all universalist, so you have to do what Jesus says to get peace!” or whatever, but I keep having those lines run through my head because in school we sang SO many choir songs with et in terra pax this time of year and I can’t wake up in December without that or a Christmas pop medley as an ear worm.
I’m no longer a Christian, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how to add a depth of purpose to the humanist way we celebrate the season as a family. I’m thinking about how all our holiday traditions at this time of year, no matter what religion, focus on that place where hope rubs up against despair, and somehow manages to triumph. I believe in the good will of my Dad, and my neighbors, my representatives, and my friends. I believe it’s possible that we can come together and learn from each other because none of us wants children to be murdered. No one wants that. We can improve laws. We can improve mental health access. We can turn off our TVs and ask for better media for children. We can talk to each other. We can love. We can find a solution. Way too late for it to do 27 or 32 or 13 any good, but I still believe. I believe people of good will want peace for our children, and for all children.
Right now, I hope that in two years I can send my daughter to first grade reasonably sure that she will not be killed. I hope. I hope.
In the car today on the way to gymnastics, D says:
“Mom, say this: Raise your hand if you know the name of the ship the Pilgrims sailed on.”
“Raise your hand if you know the name of the ship the Pilgrims sailed on.”
D raises her hand. I call on her.
“The Mayflower.” Then she says, “Wasn’t it good how I didn’t just blurt it out?”
“Yes. Nice job not blurting. What else did you learn about the Pilgrims? I noticed a picture of Pocahontas in your Friday folder last week.”
“Pocahontas went to meet the king and queen. She was an Indian. She lived in India. Her dad was in charge of their area, and he didn’t like the pilgrims, and then Pocahontas got tooken to meet the queen, and then she met her husband and they had a baby and he was their son! So was that baby a boy or a girl?” (That last question is clearly an imitation of her teacher’s voice, so I answer.)
“Um, a boy.”
“Right. He was a boy.”
I wait a minute, to see if more information is forthcoming, but this seems to be the end of the story of Pocahontas. I ask a couple follow up questions, but it seems like she genuinely has no idea why Pocahontas’ father didn’t like the Pilgrims, why the Pilgrims came to North America, or why Pocahontas went to England to meet the king and queen. Since we only have a few minutes in the car, I decide to try and intervene with the most glaring misunderstanding.
“Hey D, remember when you read about Christopher Columbus?”
“Yes. In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. That’s a rhyme: two, blue. His mom and dad thought the earth was flat but he did his dream and sailed and he was right because our world is a sphere, mom! A sphere!”
“Um, right. Remember how he wanted to sail to India, but he ended up in North America, but he didn’t realize that he had made a mistake sailing, so he called the North Americans he met Indians?
“Yes! But they were NOT India Indians!”
“Right. And neither was Pocahontas. She lived in North America, near the ocean, and the Pilgrims met her when they sailed here.”
“Oh. Did they think they were sailing to India?”
“Um, no. They pretty much knew where they were going. They just weren’t very respectful about people’s names. What else did you learn about the Indians?”
“Um, some really nice people bought Squanto and set him free after the bad people taked him and sold him. There’s a special word for that.”
“Slave? They made him a slave?”
“YES. They slaved him, and it was really bad, they were bad guys!”
“Who? The Pilgrims?”
“No. Well, I don’t know. Maybe Pilgrims. Or maybe Indians. But then those other people bought him and set him free. Wasn’t that nice?”
“Yes. That was definitely nice.” Again, all my follow up questions about this gem of a revelation are met with total confusion. She does not know if Squanto was enslaved (or freed) by Pilgrims or Indians, why he was enslaved, or how this story is connected to Pocahontas, if at all, beyond her initial (mis)understanding that both Pocahontas and Squanto lived in India.
Also, at no point did she mention the Pilgrims and Indians having Thanksgiving dinner together, which I would have assumed would be the centerpiece of any kindergarten lesson about the holiday. Or maybe it was, and I have the kid who only remembers the peripheral details of interest to her: ships, slavery, conflict, marriage babies. American History at its kindergarten best.
1.) It’s not all tea parties. Yes, there are tea parties and princess dresses and My Little Ponies. There are also dinosaurs and robots made of legos and occasional wrestling matches and hair pulling. Today, D and Lucy defeated some sea snakes in the hallway by spraying large quantities of air freshener and then fleeing for the top bunk. Rather than saying no to gendered toys, we have tried to say yes to most things ( only a few things–Bratz, Alien Autopsy kits–have been ruled out entirely) and then encourage them to mix it up. It would not have occurred to me to put the My Little Pony skirts on the dinosaurs and stage an elaborate dino ballet, but they don’t hesitate to cross gender (and species) boundaries when they play.
2.) Having 3 is actually not that much more difficult than having 1. Because when you have 1, all you know is how to be a parent to 1 kid. And if you are anything like me, it is the most unbelievably overwhelming life-altering time suck you could ever imagine. I distinctly remember feeling that every minute of every day was overflowing with this new weird experience of parenting and sometimes that was joyful and sometimes we were all crying but there was no escaping, either way. I wrote about the intensity of those emotions earlier this spring. But once I had two, and three, I flexed. Time flexed. I parent differently. I’m less likely to read Busy Busy Pandas 100 times in a row and more likely to read it once and then say, “Now look at the pandas and make up your own story!” Or, “Go find your sister and ask her to make up a panda story with you!” Or, “Go roll around on the floor and pretend to be a panda!” Before Margeaux was born, I worried that D and Lucy would be jealous of the time I would need to devote to her. It only took a couple weeks to realize that in fact, they are so deeply enmeshed in their relationship to one another that if I left the fruit snacks and juice boxes within their reach, they might ignore me all day. And now that Margeaux is on the move, she tags along behind them and plays along to the best of her ability. Which brings me to:
3.) By the time you get to the third, safety standards seem like very flexible recommendations. When D was 1, if you had suggested that I let her go down the steps alone to jump on a trampoline with a 4 and 5 year old, I would have laughed out loud at your hilarious joke. Margeaux does this every day. In the morning, she sits on the couch with a toaster waffle and watches Ni Hao Kai Lan in her sleeper. She brushes her teeth. When I drop Lucy off at preschool, if I start chatting she’ll slip away and sneak into the classroom and sit down in a chair at one of the tables, like she’s totes ready for art center or play dough time. She can climb all the way up the ladder to the top bunk, though I try and prevent this since she and Lucy came crashing down in a sad, bruised pile last week. Today, though, I forgot to pull the ladder up because D slept in late, and when they fled the sea snakes Margeaux followed them up, lickity split, and they rolled around on the top bunk laughing and shrieking. When I reminded them that it’s not safe for Margeaux to be up so high D said, “But Mom! We were escaping the sea snakes! And sea snakes aren’t safe for babies either!” Can’t blame a girl for looking out for her baby sister.
Ugh. You know those weeks where it feels like you just keep coming up short? This has been one of them. Even the new recipe I tried from The Pioneer Woman was a disappointment — and that NEVER happens.
For starters, I’ve clearly fallen off the NaBloPoMo wagon, although I’m hoping to finish strong with a post a day for the next 6 days. This happened in large part because I had been counting on the hours between 9pm and midnight to squeeze out blog entries, but I had that terrible migraine, which put me under for a few days, and T was frustrated that I was blogging in our only grown up time together and then I made the crazy decision to try and put Margeuax into her big girl bed, which means that my nights are now entirely taken up with trying to get her to go to sleep and stay asleep so now I’m not blogging and there’s still no time when T and I can have conversation and beers and make secret Christmas plans or watch House Hunters International. I think in order for this transition to work M has to stop nursing, but I don’t know how to do that without dealing with a lot of middle of the night tears and agony, so we’re just muddling through, and nobody is sleeping much.
Which is particularly problematic because since T works retail, he worked overnight shifts Thursday night into Friday and Friday night into today, so his sleep schedule is completely off kilter, and I’m cranky, and the girls are tired of being cooped up but I’ve been hesitant to take them anywhere because all the kiddo hot spots (children’s museum, indoor play gyms) are packed full this weekend, and I was trying to avoid the stress of being in a crowded play area with 3 children who all want to do different things but who really can’t operate independently. But our house is small, and it’s hard for them to remember to be quiet.
Tonight, thankfully, they all took a bath and watched the Barbie version of the Nutcracker, and D and Lucy danced off to bed with no complaints. And Margeaux is in our bed with T, who works a semi normal shift tomorrow, and even though I should just go to bed in her bed so I can sleep peacefully for a few hours, I’m feeling this internal nagging about blogging, and washing dishes. So. Now to the kitchen. I might be able to squeak one last glass of wine out of the box in the fridge and try and bring some peace back to my mind/heart/soul before I go to sleep.
Anybody got any advice about weaning an 18 month old? Ideally, I would love to be able to nurse her before she goes to bed, but not have her wake up and demand to nurse repeatedly (3-4 times) in the middle of the night. Is this an impossible dream? When she asks to nurse during the day I just tell her we only nurse at bedtime and then distract her with a story or Elmo or a snack, and that has been working fine. But I’m really not into having story and snack time in the middle of the night, and she’s really not into just being snuggled. Advice? Anyone? Lauren?
What I thought: I’ll just lay down with Margeaux this first night in her big girl bed while she figures out how to fall asleep.
What Margeaux thought: Whoa. I can just climb in and out of this bed? Anytime I want? Maybe I’ll just do that a couple times. Maybe a couple more times. Weird how mom is not excited about climbing in and out of the bed.
What I thought: Maybe she just doesn’t understand what’s supposed to be happening here. “Night night Margeaux! We go night night in the bed! Put your head on the pillow and close your eyes!”
What Margeaux thought: Oh! Night night! Maybe I’ll lay on my back. Huh. I’m not asleep yet. Maybe I’ll flip over to my tummy. Nope, still not sleeping. On my back? Still awake. On my tummy? Still awake. Mom looks like she’s sleeping. Maybe I need to be closer to her. I’ll just put my face right here, touching her face. Wow. Her eyes are right there. I can touch them! (pokes me in the eye about 50 times, saying EYE! in a perky voice each time) Oh look, there’s her nose! And her mouth! Does she have teeth? (jams a couple fingers in my mouth) Yup, teeth!
What I thought: Please god, please, let her fall asleep.
What Margeaux thought: Are those Polly Pockets? YES! I never get to play with the Polly Pockets!! I’m just going to dump all these tiny things on the floor, so it’s easier to find what I want.
What I thought: I wonder how much that sleep lady that my facebook friend was talking about costs. I’m pretty sure I remember her saying the sleep lady totally trained their toddler to sleep in a weekend. I need to look her up tomorrow.
What Margeaux thought: I love that duck and turtle on my wall. Maybe I should say good night to them. Night night duck! Night night turtle! QUACK QUACK QUACK QUACK QUACK QUACK QUACK QUACK! Hey, is mom still awake? Hard to tell when her eyes are closed. Better look closer. Hmmmm. Our foreheads are touching, but I’m still not sure. Maybe I should shout in her face a couple times. Mama Night Night? Mama Night Night?
What I thought: I’m going to open my eyes, just to be sure this is actually happening.
What Margeaux thought: YES!! She’s awake!! “HI MAMA!!! HI MAMA!!!”
Funny how she keeps telling me it’s night night time when I’m so wide awake.Maybe I’ll try laying on my back again. Nope, still not sleeping. Tummy time! Hmmmm. Still awake. What if I kick these blankets off? Or pull them up to my chin? Or kick them off? I like how it feels when my feet bounce off the mattress. Maybe I’ll just kick the bed a couple times. Maybe a couple more times. Hey, what if I kick mama? Do my feet bounce? Nope. What if I kick the wall? Nope? Okay, better kick the bed a few more times then. Night night Mama!!
**It was around this time that I actually did fall asleep. When I woke up in the middle of the night Margeaux and several Polly Pockets were in bed next to me. Needless to say, no one got much sleep. If you’re the sort of person who prays, please pray for us. If you’re the sort of person who trains other people’s children to sleep, please come to my house immediately. Because I’m about to get back in bed with her, and I’m not looking forward to it.
Today was observation day in dance class. You can see the reflection of all the parents in folding chairs in the back of the studio. The girls started classes at this studio in early September, and parents haven’t been able to see or hear (other than the echo of the tap shoes) the classes yet, so today was exciting for all of us.