Cinderella and Abuse: She Can’t “Just Leave”

IMG_0307This is not a post about Disney, or Cinderella, or the movie that I haven’t seen. This is a post about a post, by a mom who wants to explain “What Cinderella Teaches Girls About Abuse.” To paraphrase, she says that the movie teaches girls that the answer to all of life’s problems is to be kind, even when that means sacrificing your very self. She writes that this Cinderella, “is indeed kind, but somehow she thinks that courage is needed to endure abuse rather than to flee.” I have no patience for this remark, because an abusive narrative is never that simple.  Whatever the movie has to say about kindness and courage, this mother taught her girls a dangerous and false lesson about abuse.

It glares out from me in this line: “Even my seven-year-old  turned to me and said, ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ Good question. ”

No! This is not a GOOD question! Every time I read and reread this, I want to rush into that moment, grab their hands, and say “This is an important question, but the answer is: she does not leave because she has nowhere else to go.”

I thought more of us knew that it is not ok to ask an abuse victim why she hasn’t left yet.

If it’s true that this Cinderella film contains an abuse narrative, then this Cinderella has no self to sacrifice. I don’t know if this iteration of Cinderella is brave, weak, simpering, courageous, selfish, annoying, and it doesn’t matter. By the time you’re old enough to go to a ball, as the child of an emotionally and verbally abusive parent figure, you don’t have a clue where you end and she begins. Or he, in my case.

I took ONE STEP outside the lines my father drew for me, and it brought down a rage that I had never experienced, not directed at me. He did it over the phone, and he left me in a puddle in the grass in the courtyard of my dorm. I will never forget how sick I felt, when I began to unpack the lies. My father’s lies, and my stepmother’s complicity, will haunt me forever, but I also have to live with memories of begging them to love me and trying with all my little heart to be everything I thought they wanted. I am not ashamed. I asked them to love me, because they were supposed to love me.

This moment describes a courage, missed by this blogger, that perhaps only an abused child can recognize: “Cinderella is locked in the attic by her step-mother in an attempt to keep the Prince from finding her. What does Cinderella do? She briefly questions her step-mother about why she is so mean and hateful towards her. ”

A single question – why?

Why do you do this to me, when I have tried all my life to be everything you want? I am good. I am kind. Why?

Every abused child asks herself this question every day. To vocalize that question, to actually ask for an answer, is not something that I ever had the courage do to. The writer mentions Stockholm Syndrome – well, I didn’t know that there was anything wrong! Call it Stockholm Syndrome or Gaslighting, but abuse victims, especially the youngest, rarely see the abuse that is so obvious to everyone on the outside, looking in.

I am angry, and I’m afraid to say that I’m angry, that this woman’s featured post received praise from so many for teaching her daughters that an abuse victim who stays is weak. Yes, she is on point when she tells them, “that they are never to sacrifice their own self-worth in order to be kind.  I let them know that girls and women can draw their own boundaries and let people know when they have crossed them. That’s okay.” But I did not see boundaries and watch my father cross them, tell him to stop, and go save myself, when he didn’t.

I did not learn to protect my self-worth effectively or to draw healthy boundaries because the person in charge of protecting me did not teach me these things. Where was my own mother, in this story? For most of my life, she was in the same predicament. Life was about survival, and to survive in an abusive home, you never rock the boat. By the time I stopped the cycle, I was married. I had a child. And the best I could do was back away, in total silence, from a great geographical distance, and simply stop answering his calls and emails. I didn’t speak up. I said nothing. I was an adult, and I am still terrified that he is right: I am worth nothing, without him.

It’s not hard to get this one right, even with Cinderella. Steven Sondheim nailed it, in Into the Woods, with “On the Steps of the Palace.”

“So then which do you pick:
Where you’re safe, out of sight,
And yourself, but where everything’s wrong?
Or where everything’s right
And you know that you’ll never belong?”

When safety and abuse are synonymous, and you do not believe that you deserve anything better, you can’t “just leave.”

When you talk to your children about self-worth and kindness, bask in the privilege that they possess, the privilege every child should possess–self-worth that no one has trampled, and boundaries no one has crossed. I pray that my own child never knows what it feels like to have his boundaries erased, to feel violated, to feel that he is worthless. Feel the sun on your faces and enjoy what ought to be a right, and seems too often, to be a privilege granted at random.

AND

It is never a good question to ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” Teach your children to stop asking that question.

What “Small Business Saturday” Can Mean

With American Express promoting this Small Business Saturday idea, it can seem pretty distant. Their idyllic little shops don’t look much like the family businesses in my own neighborhood. Inside our little apartment, under my name, there are two small businesses trying to get their little engines up a very big hill towards Profits: Welcoming Birth, L.L.C., and my Jamberry Nails direct sales business.

Welcoming Birth (HypnoBirthing) has cost more than it has earned, like most small businesses in their first 18 months of life. But it’s about to get a big boost! Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Childbirth Education classes are about to include a HypnoBirthing class taught by ME! Yesterday, I toured the options available for classrooms and told the coordinator what my preferences are, for space. Since my goal is to teach families that they can set any mood they want to set, to have the birth they want to have, I’ll be ok in any room (but I did request the one with the nicest lighting…) and I’m really just beyond excited to start teaching my first course in January.

Jamberry is making us some money to pay some bills! But it speeds up and slows down, like any retail business. Like every other retail business, “Black Friday,” followed by “Small Business Saturday,” followed by “Cyber Monday” are really big days for us Jamberry reps! Most of us are selling Jamberry because it’s the most fun way we have found to help make ends meet in our families. When you shop with us, you help us pay for gifts, classes, daycare. You support a larger company that manufactures in the US, recycles everything it can possibly recycle, and began in a kitchen, ideas bouncing back and forth between family. Excuse me while I get a little sentimental, but I want you to know that you can have real reasons to feel good about shopping with us.

The less sentimental part of all this is my hard-headed plan to get my family off public assistance by the middle of next year. It’s happening. Every month, I build my team and my customer base. I walk the line between annoying and fun as I ask more people to host parties, or even to join my team. This month, I am so close to a big promotion. I’m so very, very close. So I’m posting about it here, something I rarely do, because it’s what keeps buys the Christmas gifts (purchased this year from other small business and direct sellers using only Jamberry bonus money), and the gas to go to Thanksgiving dinner in another state, and the babysitter who helps out, when both parents need to write. My Jamberry earnings also made it possible for me to invest in Welcoming Birth, filing the short but expensive paperwork I needed to get L.L.C. status, and acquiring insurance, and everything else the hospital asked for.

Head on over to Facebook, and “like” my page! Find teasers for our Black Friday specials and message me with questions. Head over to my Jamberry shop and buy something small  (or large!) as a gift – I’ll walk you through every step, if you want some help! And in a week, when you see #SmallBusinessSaturday, think of me and my tribe! Go on Twitter and ask @DoNotFaint for some real-time personal shopping. Ask me how all of this works, and why it’s so much fun–maybe it would be a good fit for you, too…

blog jamberry collage

Our Babysitter Is Back! Thank All The Stars!

:: I have an affiliate account with Sittercity. They don’t pay me to write things, but I do get money from them whenever someone clicks on my link to set up a parent-looking-for-babysitting account. ::

Last year, we found an amazing babysitter. Our schedules meshed; our kid loved her. We had a harder time making our schedules work together this fall, because she’s a student and a mom, herself, but we finally worked it out! Everyone is thrilled that she’s back. Walt has a special happy “I’m ready to play so hard” look in his eyes when she comes over. And I get time to write!
How did we find her? Well, I took my own advice and used Sittercity.com to look for a sitter. Here are my tips for finding a babysitter as awesome as ours–


Sittercity: The best sitters are here

  1. Email about your schedules, needs, and basic expectations, first. If someone replied to your post in a sort of “apply for all the things!” spirit, but is really looking for 20 hours a week and, like us, you can afford about 6 hours, then it’s best to find that out before you spend any more time on her.
  2. Double check these things with a phone interview. Make sure she has transportation, is free at the times you need, and get to know her a little over the phone. At this point, you can start trusting your gut. If you get a weird vibe, put her at the bottom of the list. There’s really no need to be rational as a parent. Of course, I would never advocate going with “my gut says no!” for reasons that discriminate against race, or someone’s accent, or other things that have nothing to do with her (or his!) ability to care for you child. If you feel uncomfortable with someone who is not a pretty, young woman who looks like you, have a chat with yourself. If you’ve asked yourself why you don’t want to meet a potential sitter, and you’re satisfied that it’s just not a good fit, why spend the time and energy on an in-person interview? (Let her know when you do find someone, though. That’s just polite.)
  3. Meet in person, at your home, or wherever the child care will happen. This takes more energy than you’d think. The potential sitter is interviewing you, too, remember. She’s got to spend time in a stranger’s house, taking care of a stranger’s kid, so let’s hope that she wants this to be a good experience, too. My point is that it takes energy to meet someone new, and it can feel like a lot of pressure. But resist the temptation to be any family other than who you really are. At some point, she’s going to walk in on your chaos. It’s ok if she gets a sneak peek. I tidy up for my sitter, don’t get me wrong, but there have been days when she has seen me in the middle of a migraine, hair sticking up, eyes half open, dying for a shower.
  4. Make sure your child is there. I don’t recommend leaving the room, because you want to see how the two interact. But someone can be great in an interview with adults and seem a little stiff or bored around kids. It happens. When I was interviewing for babysitting jobs, it was important to me to get to know the tiny people, not just their parents. I would squat down to look them in the eyes on their level to introduce myself and say hi. I would sit on the floor, so that they could come to me when they were ready. I would give them time. I would usually talk to their parents before actively trying to engage them, so that they could see that their parents trusted me, a brand new tall person. You get the idea–I was thinking about the kids. It was obvious. Look for that.
  5. Ask your potential babysitter this question: “Say you’re feeling overwhelmed to the point of feeling angry, just like anyone who spends time with kids–there are frustrating moments for all of us!–what do you do, when that happens?” If she seems floored, go ahead and prompt with an example. “My kids are just like any kids, and they have their days where they just seem to want to break every safety rule. I get mad, because I’m just trying to keep them safe. I’m sure that’s happened to you, too! What did you do, last time that happened?” If she claims that she doesn’t get angry, but you really like her, ask about frustration. If she doesn’t even admit to getting frustrated, she’s lying. I don’t care why they lie–to impress you, to seem serene like Mary Poppins (who, by the way, got pretty mad a couple times) in order to get the job. I don’t like it. Honesty pretty darn important, when you’re leaving your child with someone. I have asked this question in every interview, since a great couple asked me that question, years ago. What did our current sitter say? “With my son, I tell him that I’m going to the bathroom or making coffee, or something that would be boring for him, so he won’t ask to come with me. I make sure he’s safe, obviously, and then I go in another room and let off steam, somehow. I just don’t think kids should have to deal with big, adult feelings. I can come back and explain that I feel frustrated when he doesn’t listen, but in the middle of it, it’s just better to leave the room.” <— extra points for the understanding that kids and adults feel emotion and think about life differently!
  6. To be perfectly honest, I hired our babysitter before she had met our son, because my husband had forgotten that she was coming and taken the child out. But here’s where my last tip comes in–agree on a contract of sorts, and include a trial period. PAY your sitter the same rate during the trial period, but just make sure everyone knows that during the first month or week or day, you might say “This isn’t going to work out.” We had scored a babysitter who was also a mom who was also studying to become an elementary school teacher, so I was pretty sure my kid would love her. He did. My husband thinks she’s awesome, too. We have fun chatting.

I’m so glad our babysitter is back! I think all these steps I mention really helped us get off to the kind of start that allowed for her to take a couple weeks to get used to her new, busier schedule. It’s also just really nice to hear our son’s belly laugh when he’s playing with her.

The Joyful Heart Foundation: Some of the work I’ve been doing.

I’m not really ready to talk about how I’ve been doing. I’m doing better–less depressed. I have a new psychiatrist. She’s awesome. That’s sheer luck, since I found her via the insurance company directory and chose her because her office is two blocks from my house. What I am happy to talk about is some fundraising work I’ve been doing for The Joyful Heart Foundation. I turn thirty, tomorrow. Here’s what I want for my birthday: donate to or shop a fundraiser I’m running, to give money to this foundation.

I’ll explain:

Have you seen commercials that repeat “No more” or marathons of Law & Order SVU with the hashtag #nomore? That’s Joyful Heart. Have you heard about SVU’s star, Mariska Hargitay, donating money to any police department who will work with her, in order to pay for rape kits to be processed? No? Well, she created Joyful Heart, and its cornerstone project is to make a dent in the backlog of unprocessed rape kits that sit on shelves in evidence lockers, sometimes until the statute of limitations on the crime has run out. Rape victims are waiting, for years, for the DNA collected during the incredibly difficult examination that collecting a “rape kit” involves; sometimes, that DNA has degraded, before underfunded and understaffed police departments get a chance to process it. Databases are incomplete. Crimes go unsolved. I’m going to talk about the reason that this is so important to me, and it’s going to be hard to read. Fair warning.

When I was a little girl, just about 10, exactly 20 years ago this month, a man my mother trusted came into my room and sexually assaulted me. He was careful, quiet, and probably didn’t leave any DNA. I was terrified. I didn’t tell anyone at all, for another four, maybe five years. When I did tell my story, it was terrifying. My body shook, uncontrollably. My therapist at the time was pretty incompetent, so I don’t know if he actually did anything, but he told me that he had reported everything I had told him to the police, and that they would keep it on record, in case anyone came forward with a similar story. I hope that helped someone else; I was certainly not the first person he had harmed. In my mid-twenties, I went to a police station to report that a man I didn’t know had tried to walk me home from the subway, and that I was petrified that he had seen where I lived, and would come back. The atmosphere in that police station wasn’t awful; it was hardly conducive to a scared young woman remembering enough detail to make any difference. One officer made a comment about the way the clerk looked, and I could tell from the look on her face that she was used to that. I don’t think he knew that that qualified as sexual harassment, but it did, and it happened while I was reporting harassment.

My story makes me believe in Hargitay’s mission to educate, “heal the healers,” and ask police departments how her organization can work with them. I know that Rape Culture minimizes the experiences of survivors. But I believe that much of the law-enforcement side of this problem can be solved with more education, listening, and financial help directed at the right places.

The foundation's plan of action to effect real change.

The foundation’s plan of action to effect real change.

I learned about this organization from my aunt. My dad has one sister, and she has been a pillar of strength in my life. She has loved me for ME, as long as I can remember. We haven’t had a lot of time together; she has lived in California, as long as I’ve been alive, and I lived in Minnesota, for as long as I can remember. But she threw my mom a baby shower, and I have a picture of that day, and the cake she baked for us. When my family visited a few of my dad’s siblings, in California, I remember her most clearly, because she talked to the kids like we were just short people. My dad’s family yelled a lot, but I never heard her yell. One aunt-in-law, and my beloved aunt, distracted the kids, when the brothers stared up. I’ve pieced that much together. When I was processing the memories I had finally talked about, at age fourteen or fifteen, she just sat and listened to me. And she even told me to hold up, before deciding that it was all my mom’s fault, because she said she knew what it was like, as a mother, to see her children hurting, to know that it was her “fault,” and that I couldn’t understand that pain. When I wanted to punish my mother for letting that man into our house, my aunt told me that my mom was suffering and to be gentle. Her voice echoed in my head when I made the decision to start calling my mom during therapy sessions, to work through some of those feelings.

Now that I’m an adult, I know more about the life my aunt has lived. It’s not my story to tell, but she is the victim of incest, rape, domestic violence, emotional and verbal abuse, from family members, now ex-husbands, even my own father. She’s got medical problems that keep her immobile, sometimes, but every day she can, she walks for at least twenty minutes. I want to tell you about what she’s doing, now, because my heart feel stronger, every time I think about how she spends her time. She’s the one who told me about The Joyful Heart Foundation and its mission to flood cooperative police departments with money to process the backlog of rape kits that plagues our nation. She hasn’t ever had the kind of closure that DNA proof from a processed rape kit can provide, but she wants it for other survivors. You can learn more about the project to End the Backlog, here. My aunt goes to group therapy for survivors and ends up supporting the therapists by telling the younger women understand that they are making choices, even when they feel like they are trapped. She tells them about the way her own children have suffered, when she stayed with abusive husbands, after she left, just because life is hard. She’s honest about the mistakes they have made, now that they are all grown, and how she feels responsible for that. She talks, because she hopes that knowing about her life and the lives of her kids will help someone else. Her imperfections, “wrong” choices, and the sheer force of her will to keep on going – this is how she helps the rest of us.

One more thing about my aunt – she was worried about me, this month, around the same time that I was silent here on the blog, because I hadn’t returned her calls (only two, because she doesn’t want to bother me). She called my sister to make sure that I was ok. I’ve felt invisible, often. That happens when you grow up with an emotionally abusive father preoccupied by his own paranoia. I know that she’s thinking of me. She even told me once that sometimes, she might not call me back right away, because she never wanted me to have to bear the burden of her depression. It means the world to me that she is so careful to maintain healthy boundaries with me, not a little bit because my dad didn’t even understand that concept.

I could tell more stories about more women I know who never had justice or closure. I can’t do anything to give that to them. But I can do something for the women whose rape kits just need more money and more pressure to get processed before the statute runs out. I can do something for the women who will be raped and whose assailants’ DNA must be included in a database, where it can be matched with the results of other rape kits.

As I leave my twenties behind, I look back on a decade spent using my wits, my will, my time – every resource I could grasp – to take back my life from the people who asked me for my power. My father. The man who assaulted me. They are the worst offenders. I learned to love my body, to feel its power. I learned that some of the people I love can be trusted, implicitly, and that where the trust is too corroded for a relationship to continue, I can love and maintain boundaries, from afar. The only thing that I needed, outside myself, were other people to believe in me. And THAT is what The Joyful Heart Foundation does. It connects the people who need healing with people who can help them heal. Not everyone is as lucky as I am, to have such an aunt, a husband, a sister, a mother, to believe in me.

Donate directly to The Joyful Heart Foundation, here.

Until Monday, October 13th, you can join a Facebook “party” where my friend Vanessa and I are selling jewelry and Jamberry nail wraps, together. I’ve made it “public” – you don’t even have to have a Facebook account to see it. If you join us by clicking “RSVP” you’ll have a chance to win discounts and free merchandise! You’ll find the short version of everything I’m about to post in that party, so go there!

If you’re not a Facebook person, keep reading. You can shop for beautiful jewelry at my friend Vanessa’s Chloe + Isabel website. See the bumble bee? I have one! It’s amazing. Mine is a charm clipped to a turquoise beaded “convertible” piece that can be one long necklace, one long + one short + one bracelet, one medium + one bracelet, etc. I wear it all the time!

c + i collage

For every $1 you spend, she will donate $0.12 to the foundation, as long as you remember to choose our “pop up shop” like this, during checkout:

c + i pop up shop choice

And, of course, I’m selling Jamberry nail wraps and lacquer for the cause! Like Vanessa, I’m donating $0.12 for every $1 you spend on my site. Choose “Gems & Jams” as your party, at checkout. Jamberry will ask you “Don’t you want to pick a party?” if you forget, and I can fix it, in case you forget twice.

I have a special project, too. If you buy order a design I did myself, I will donate 100% of my commission to the foundation. This is the design:

joyful heart 2.0 preview watermarked

And you can fill out an order form, here. It will ask you for your email address, so that I can email you an invoice for $20. (The words are a watermark–they won’t be printed on the design! And, if this form isn’t working for you, click on this link.)

If My Child Loves Yours

{This is a response to “if my child marries yours,” a post that was shared on my Facebook feed a few times. I didn’t gush about warm feelings or leave comments about my mommy tears. I felt left out.}

If my child loves yours…

Another writer wrote, very recently, that she is “pretty sure that our longest days – the ones that are brim-full with hair-pulling moments, impossible messes, and toddler meltdowns – those are the days that we are fashioning hearts.” I really like that. “Fashioning hearts.” Their hearts beat before we can feel these beings move, within us, or within the women who birthed them. My child lets his joy flow freely, and his frustration, too, and I hope to help him fashion a heart that will always be so open.

I write to heal the small hurt I feel when I acknowledge the probability that, if we met tomorrow, this other writer mother would not welcome me into her life with open arms, and as long as I’m being honest, I would hesitate, too. I hesitate and put up my guard, when I meet Christians who have buildings to pray in, on Sundays, and communities that stretch around the world. I have not found my internal path to be a comforting one, nor have I found a place in the community built around its church. But my soul knows that this is my path. I feel a mixture of envy and of fear that my own path will find too little respect for a friendship to grow, with a parent like this writer, if my child loves hers.

I thank this other writer and mother, because she inspired me to write this. No, I did not see myself in her prayer. In moments like that quote about the longest days fashioning hearts, and her desire for a multitude of baby photos to swap, I see a mother I might know… I write with love for her, even though I am a little bit angry, because if my child loves her child and creates a family with her child, I know that I will long for us to be friends, and to support that family together, wholeheartedly. The only way I know how to cross a bridge so wide is with love, the kind that’s deeper than words and appears, behind my eyes, as light.

My ability to see the people she leaves out of her prayer doesn’t make me a superior being. I am one of those left out, and so I see gaps. I want to write my own hope prayer that includes her and every mother and father whose child may one day grow up to love mine. After all, the toddler who will grow up to carry my son’s heart may have two fathers, or two mothers, or one of each, or just one parent. I want to include everyone, because I do not feel included.

All the same, it is wonderful to send love and friendship, right now, to the people who are raising my son’s future love, to the parents of the person with whom he will build his own family. I write this for you, wherever you are, knowing so little about you, and yet so much, because we are all parents.

Today was one of the hair-tearing, messy toddler days, for me, and we both cried, at one point. It might have been for you, whatever that looks like for you, wherever you are. My hope prayer is that you, too, received a gem to hold; my baby said his first grammatical sentence, noun and verb together, with no words missing, today. I hope that something like this, a milestone or just an unexpected hug, lifted your heart.

My hope is a prayer, and my prayer is silent. I don’t go to a building on a Sunday. My path has been internal, and I find that God feels closest to me when I can hear the voice of Intuition, which I believe is the voice of the Holy Spirit, whose other name is Om. When I think of you, awake with anxious insomnia, a sick child, a child who won’t sleep for some reason you’ll never know, or even sleeping peacefully while I sit here, typing, I imagine you surrounded by a light that brings peace and comfort. I send a whisper from the part of my soul that remembers that we are made from God, to the part of your soul that knows it, too. My heart sends love to your heart, in the hope that this will slow your racing mind. I have never met a mother whose mind easily slows down, while raising a toddler, so I think you probably need that, just as much as I do.

Because I am a writer, my hope prayer carries no words; these are merely the best words I have to convey parts of it. If words could say enough, I would be out of a job.

I hope that you make your home a welcoming, warm, place, whether it overflows with material wealth, or whether its cupboards are bare. My hope prayer carries no words, because my language may not be your language. Whatever language you speak in your home, your child must learn to love, to be vulnerable, to cherish the family that you have created together, and so you must create a home, whatever it looks like, that promises safety. Perhaps we look alike, and we both worry about too many activities, or too little enrichment. Too much socialization, or too little. My hope prayer does not need words to send you a plea for a safe, warm home and unconditional love, because these are universal longings. Listen to that voice, straight from God, telling you to love, to hold close, to keep safe.

My hope prayer wraps your family, whatever it looks like, in its warming light; whether you are married, or not, raising a child who shares some of your DNA, or none of it, I hope that you feel, often, the touch of unconditional partner love. Our children will find their way more comfortably, if we model a loving partnership for them. But mostly, I hope that you have this precious thing, and that you keep it forever, because it is a very nice thing to have. Support and commitment from a partner strengthen a parent’s heart.

Whether my son loves your daughter or your son, I send this hope prayer out into their futures: may we love them so fiercely that they never doubt their family.

Whether you recognize your God in my church, or cannot find Him/Her/them there, I send a hope prayer out into the future that you understand me when I tell you, “I show him faith, the deepest faith I feel.”

Whether or not we immediately like each other, I hope that we grow to be friends as we watch our children build families of their own. They say that children need roots and wings, so my hope prayer includes the desire for shared moments of joy that they have had strong roots and of excitement that they want to use strong wings (mixed, of course, with fear that they will feel pain).

Whether or not we share a familiar celebration, like a wedding with a bride and a groom, I send my hope prayer into the future for a celebration in our heart of hearts that our children are brave enough to undertake this wild journey that is creating new family.

 

canoe

Anxious Introvert Travels with Toddler

Tomorrow, we leave for New York and my inlaws’ home, and on Tuesday, we head to California. First up will be time with a friend from childhood, and then, the BlogHer ’14 conference.

I’m spending today doing laundry. I’ll be spending tomorrow evening practicing installing the convertible carseat with a seat belt (my friend’s car was made before LATCH). I could do it in no time flat with the infant seat, but they grow up so fast…

Worries:

  • Will I have space and time to be alone? Related: will the toddler adjust to life without Daddy (just for a week!) enough to play by himself? Or will he get super clingy?
  • Will I be able to eat while traveling? Do they sell things in airports that contain no dairy, gluten, sugar or soy? Can I carry enough food in with me to feed us both?
  • How do I get all the stuff from the airport to the curb? A carry on, a toddler’s bag o’ stuff, a checked bag, a carseat…
  • Should I bring the stroller?
  • Does wearing socks actually keep my feet any cleaner after I take my shoes off and go through security? My shoes don’t really look great with socks…
  • Will the child be able to handle riding in the Onya carrier, now that he can walk? Is it wrong to be grateful that he’s clingy around strangers and thus reassure myself that he won’t go running off while we go through security?
  • Who will set next to us on the plane? I trapped us in the window seat to deter any “let me walk through the aisle” spontaneous toddlerness. But that means two people between us and the aisle… at least he’s still in diapers?

That’s not even all of it. Oh, please wish us luck!

We did it 14 month ago. We can do it again this week!

We did it 14 month ago. We can do it again this week!

Joovy HiLo: A Spontaneous Review

This is the highchair we won at an event. How much fun is this color?

This is the highchair we won at an event. How much fun is this color?

I’m reviewing the Joovy HiLo highchair, a raffle prize Walt and I won at an event in Brooklyn this spring, because the Joovy reps I talked to were so nice, and it really is a fantastic high chair.

Things I love about this chair:

  • Easy in and out.
  • Easy cleanup.
  • Easily removed tray top.
  • Two heights!
  • Super safe and stable.

Things I don’t love about this chair:

  • The harness; even if it was set up properly, it was still hard to figure out which was was the right way to get the buckles snapped. Redoing the harness after flipping it over took several intelligent adults and a lot of trial and error. Big learning curve.
  • The price point. At $399, I’m just not sure I can recommend buying this one at full price. Stokke makes two high chairs that change seat heights and cost less, and they can both have a slimmer profile without accessories (optional). Which brings me to…
  • It takes up a lot of space. I’m used to the Stokke Tripp Trapp, a gift from my baby shower, and its near invisibility in our dining room. This seems very bulky to me. It doesn’t weigh much, and you can move it with neat little wheels on the back legs. I’ve never had a big dining space, though, so I want lower-profile chair.

We’ve kept this chair at Gram’s house, because it came fully assembled. It fit nicely in her CRV, but definitely wasn’t going to make it to Connecticut in the Corolla we were driving, then. We’ve used it outside and inside, and I loved that at the lower height, it fit at the picnic table on the back patio!

How cute is my kid? Also: see the transparent tray-on-tray?

How cute is my kid? Also: see the transparent tray-on-tray?

There’s a lightweight, but sturdy tray, which is transparent, and it snaps onto the bigger white tray. It rinses right off and it’s dishwasher safe. It has a spot for a cup, and you can snap it off with one hand, while leaving the white tray in place for safety or play.

Joovy markets this as a chair that switches from infant to toddler, so I’m guessing that it’s not meant to be switched around as often as I flipped it. But I was hoping that I could tell you that its advantage over the Tripp Trapp was that you could switch the height easily. Nope. Not easy. Easier than getting out an allen wrench, but that harness…

If it gets twisted, when you flip the chair, it won’t buckle properly. I have the same problem with my (inexpensive) umbrella stroller, but it will still clip, even if there’s a twist in the strap. Not so with the HiLo.

After you flip the chair, you have to figure out which straps to clip to the d-rings in the seat. If they’re upside-down, they won’t fit into the front part of the harness. Even if you do get those to fit together, if the bottom straps are twisted, it won’t clip together with center buckle. It’s a three-point harness, with straps over the arms and around the waist, which is great. Once you get it to work.

Really easy to switch!

Really easy to switch!

The hole in the middle allows you to flip the harness with the chair, so there aren't two. That's nice! But see those little black d-rings on either side of the harness? Figuring out what to clip to those, and which was the right direction for them to be clipped... it's definitely not easy.

The hole in the middle allows you to flip the harness with the chair, so there aren’t two. That’s nice! But see those little black d-rings on either side of the harness? Figuring out what to clip to those, and which was the right direction for them to be clipped… it’s definitely not easy.

Overall, I do love this high chair. I thought that I would sell it, because I had won this expensive baby gear, and I could make a profit. It’s been months, and I still can’t bring myself to do it! It is just so darn cute! The tray snaps on and off by some heavy-duty snaps on the back of the chair. Eventually, I can just so easily see my son in two years, sitting in this bright, sweetly designed furniture as a chair, no harness, no tray, coloring at the dining table. A chair of his own!

If money is no object, and you want something with design that’s a little brighter and bolder than the Swedish design at Stokke, or the space-age design at Boon (competitors), this really is a great choice.

*I received no compensation for this review. The raffle in which I won this highchair was completely random.

Estranged, by Jessica Berger Gross: A Review

My own estrangement from my father is about a year old, and Estranged came into my life right in the middle of it. Just over six months ago, I read the brand new “Kindle Single,” the day it came out. I couldn’t stop reading, once I started. In a way, I had to do it all at once – click the link on Facebook, buy the book, download the book, read the book. I told myself, don’t think too much. Get through the pain. Learn what you can.

The strength of Estranged is that it doesn’t “think” too much; the simplicity of author Jessica Berger Gross‘s storytelling lets me project my own experience right on to her insights. “When the estrangement began, I thought of it as a break. … the days stacked up and I came to collect and register each no-parent day like someone in recovery would record a day of sobriety. The plain truth was, the longer I went without seeing my parents, the better my life became.” Tears come to my eyes every time I read that passage. It’s just how I feel, for all the time and details that separate my life from the author’s experience.

Estrangement from a parent brings up so many questions that hover and cloud the intuition that demands distance. What about love? Don’t I love my father? Don’t I value family? Was it wise to reject a parent so soon after becoming a parent, myself?

Estranged asks the same questions, but Berger Gross doesn’t have answers, any more than I do. There’s a great deal of emotional release in finding that someone with so much more time and distance can answer only the simpler questions: when? How? Why? Why continue the silence? What about your own child? When it becomes clear that a parent can threaten the safety of even an adult child. By simply walking away. Because a parent’s, or parents’, behavior is unsafe, and becomes it remains unsafe. To protect my self and my child from that behavior. Physical abuse, emotional abuse, other threats… it doesn’t matter. Those other, bigger questions simply don’t matter to a child whose safety is threatened, even if she is an adult.

If you have never felt threatened by your own parents, it can be nearly impossible to relate to the paradox faced by adult children, estranged from ours. The primal need to be “close” to a parent pulls against the drive for safety, the “fight or flight” instinct that rises in every human, when we feel threatened. Berger Gross writes, “Now I am something like proud of my choice. … I know artists, writers, lawyers — people with advanced degrees and money in the bank who tremble at the thought of some 70- or 80-something man or woman in Ohio or Boca or Baltimore.”

I was in the process of joining Berger Gross, when I read Estranged; the trembling I felt was beginning to recede. At some point, I simply felt certain that I would not feel safe with my father in my life, and that following the pull toward my father would inevitably lead to that adrenaline rush to fight, or fly.

Berger Gross finishes her book with this thought on her parents: “They did love me, I know. Maybe they still do.” I understand that; my father did love me and maybe still does. The proverbial cord that ties us to our parents can’t be cut, in my opinion. But it can be left alone, so that what’s on the other side can’t tug at me, anymore. It takes a great deal of strength to leave a relationship with a lifetime of history, literally. I’m proud of that strength, and happy to enjoy the deep sense of safety that has settled into my life.

A Kindle Single, soon to appear in print.

A Kindle Single, soon to appear in print.

*This post contains an affiliate link, so if you purchase this book after following this link, I will receive a small payment for sending you to Amazon. I did not receive even a free copy of this book in exchange for this review, which was inspired only by my gratitude for and appreciation of it.

Inside Misogyny: #YesAllWomen Live in a Sexist System

All the trigger warnings. Even that phrase makes me shudder. Violence, sexism, sexual assault, general and specific.

 

I did not know how to write about everything I have felt in the wake of the shootings that happened last Friday night at the University of California, Santa Barbara, on a street where my friend used to live. I don’t know anyone directly involved in the violence. The best I can do to explain why I have retreated from the world and felt so much grief is to say that I have known since I was 10 years old, since before I knew this word, that I live inside misogyny. Our culture is a sexist culture. The man who assaulted me felt entitled to my body.

The point of the conversation is to say, ‘Alright this is the system that we’ve created, but we can also change this system through awareness.’ – Soraya Chemaly

There have been over a million tweets that have used the hashtag #YesAllWomen to tell stories. We have been telling stories about being told to smile by a stranger on the street, to avoid “bad” boys as if date rape is the victim’s fault, and about surviving incest, rape, domestic violence. Until I heard Soraya Chemaly and other guests on NPR’s program On Point discuss the way that misogyny defines the way we live, I did not understand fully why this brought up such a primal fear in me.

Misogyny, as Chemaly points out, includes both the hatred of women/girls AND the hatred of all things feminine. Our boys are under so much pressure, because femininity is viewed as weak. Our girls are under so much pressure, because they are bombarded with the message that they must protect themselves from (masculine) aggression.

I am still processing my feelings on this. My conscious mind knows that this fear will not overwhelm me to the point of tears, for much longer. But I will not feel as safe as I might feel. I may no longer feel that I’m in immediate danger, the way my early trauma is telling me right now. But as the mother of a boy, and the spouse of a man, and a member of this society, it is my job to face my fears and work to change this system from inside it. I am fortunate to work with this man and this boy, my family, in this project. I grieve that my father and his father did more than I will ever write about, here, to perpetuate that system. Those stories, from those generations, aren’t mine to tell. I am free from admonitions to protect my reputation by not being alone with a boy “for no reason” and to “be careful who I date” that punctuated my teen years. Without actively telling me that women were less valuable than men, or that he hated women, my father told me to adapt to a misogynistic system. My family, now – my husband and son – will be working hard to question that system. As we question, and as we ask women, “tell me more of your story,” even when it might be tempting to defend the “good” men, we will change it.

chemaly

Rejecting Alicia Silverstone’s Kind, or Real Help for Moms

I am sick and tired of tools that work for some, that maybe ought to be shared, turning into Movements, and I’m rejecting Alicia Silverston’s Kind Movement for this reason. I don’t care how much of it is helpful, or good for the planet. I care that what works for her gets a label and (yet another) call for change to the way that we live. For the sake of the children, of course. My Facebook page blew up a little, about ten days ago, when I re-posted this:

In Alicia Silverstone’s new book “The Kind Mama”, she writes, “… though it’s less common among kind mamas, some women experience the blues after giving birth.” Kind and gentle mothers don’t get PPD like cruel and heartless ones do, dontcha know …

Could we all swear a solemn oath to stop following parenting advice from uninformed celebrities henceforth and forevermore?” (part of an original Facebook post by Katherine Stone)

The debate on my timeline was a healthy one, but I choose to reject Alicia Silverston’s Kind movement entirely, because this kind of statement from someone who is not a doctor or scientist does not fly with me. Really, though, what happened out of the public eye is what inspired this post.

I realized that I hadn’t heard from a friend with a new baby in awhile, so I checked in on her. I’m grateful to her for being honest with me–it had taken her awhile to bond with her new baby, she didn’t think she had experienced depression, but understands the phrase “baby blues” now, and empathizes with mothers who do suffer from PPD. She was feeling better in her third month of motherhood, for a few reasons, including more sleep, a more interactive infant, and space to herself. Her child sleeps well in a crib in another room, and she sleeps better this way, too. Why that should matter to anyone outside their family, I have no idea. Alicia cares, though. Cosleeping is the Kind way.

I remember reading something about mood, oxytocin (a “feel good” hormone) and cosleeping, but there are and must be exceptions. Read my friend’s words, and tell me that this person is not thoughtful and taking good care of herself and her family; she says that moving the baby out of her and her husband’s bedroom was “pivotal in getting more sleep and feeling worthy of having my own space.” 

Feeling worthy of having her own space.

Real help means saying, “Yes! Whatever makes you feel worthy, Mama! Because you ARE!” We don’t need another movement with more prescriptive advice about the Best Way to Mother. I know that Alicia Silverstone wants the “Kind” in her “movement” to mean more than the word usually does in conversation, and that she touches on aspects of self care, the environment. I don’t care. My blood boils every time I think about her words, because it smacks of the kind of self care that is really supposed to be selfless. It’s NOT self care if we are taking care of ourselves in order to be better citizens, wives, mothers, caretakers of the planet. No.

We practice self care because we are WORTHY of self care. We are kind to ourselves, whatever that may mean, because we deserve kindness from everyone.

I want my child, and my friend’s child, and all children, to learn to be kind to others, and I hope very much that they learn from our example. But there is a long and dark history behind teaching women to care for ourselves so that we may better serve others. I reject anything with that flavor to it. Had she framed her ideas the way Mayim Bialik did with her book, Beyond The Sling, I might be receptive; Bialik states her intention early in her book to simply share how some aspects of Attachment Parenting work for her family, and her hope that this helps other families picture how AP might work for them. She doesn’t push for any universal movement. She shares ideas. If it’s not advice, then it’s harder to feel shame for not living it. New parents do not need new excuses to feel shame. It’s already everywhere. Let’s just pool our ideas, and not tell each other how to live, can we?

We need real support. We are worthy of care. The end.

alicia-silverstone-kind-mama with text