Your Child’s First Bully

[Throwback Thursday — Originally published March 2014]

My son is almost three years old. He has been classified as “all boy” by many of my family members and friends when they see him bouncing off the walls, playing in dirt, crashing cars, and shooting fake guns. Other people have literally said the words “he might be gay” because, at the same time, his dressers are pink, he has several baby dolls he nurtures and cuddles as if they were real, he likes Barbies and Dora, and has a pink shopping cart he brings every time we go grocery shopping.

Breaking Free of Traditional Gender Roles

Photo Credit: Paul Windle / Found On: nytimes.com

Honestly, his sexual orientation doesn’t matter to me, not because he’s so young, but because it never will. I will always love him regardless. And, I am more than happy to buy him the pinkest, “girliest” toy on the shelves if he asks for it, because I see absolutely nothing wrong with it. 

Things, material things, are not masculine or feminine. We have defined them as so, but they’re not.

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I was Hungover and Brought Home a Ball of Fluff

[Throwback Thursday — Originally published May 2014. RIP Coco, I will love you forever.]

When I was about 3-years-old, my parents informed me they were getting me a puppy.

The only thing I cared about was naming it Lassie. Male or female, Chihuahua or Great Dane, bald or fluffy: I was naming it Lassie.

(From what I’m told, Lassie was my favorite show, my favorite dog, my favorite living thing in the entire world. My grandfather often used to tease me and say, “Lassie is a boy!” to which I would get deeply offended and respond, “Lassie is a doah!” — pronounced ‘doe-uh’; for some reason that is how my toddler mouth spat out the word ‘girl’.)

My parents brought home an adorable brown and cream-colored German Shepherd/Lab mix. She was hyper and clumsy. I wrapped her up in my 101 Dalmatians sleeping bag and cuddled her on the living room floor. We played and wrestled; she pounced and nipped and I hugged and giggled.

(The photo to the right is of another dog, but she looked a lot like that.)

And then my parents said, “This is Lady.”


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Confession: Maybe I’m Not Cut Out For This

I used to be very maternal. Everyone said so.

I used to adore kids. Everyone saw.

I used to want eight of my own. I told everyone.

Now, well now I’m not so sure I was meant to be a mother. Nobody knows.

I remember perfectly when my son was born. I can tell you my birth story in detail, which I’m sure I will sometime. But I cannot tell you that amazing connection mothers feel the moment they hold their children. I can’t tell you about that because I didn’t feel it.

I just wanted to go to sleep. I looked over at my darling boy, said he looked like his father, and passed out.

When the nurses brought him to my room so I could take care of him, I kept asking them to take him away. I wasn’t ready. I needed more sleep, more time.

Slowly that connection, that amazement, came. My son was in the hospital for two weeks after he was born. When I sat with him in the nursery I would hold him and stare at him for hours. No one else wanted to come visit because it was boring for them to watch me stare. He was perfect, couldn’t they see?

newborn sleeping

I got lucky. I had an easy baby. I loved being a mom. I loved watching him explore the world around him and take everything in; I loved being there for major moments; I loved how he would curl his body into mine for comfort. I had never known a love so strong. I was obviously meant for this.

But now, now things are different. And I haven’t yet told anyone.

Now I get bored watching him sleep. I get excited for the milestones, but only because finally the hard work of getting there is over. I get uncomfortable when we cuddle and crave a cigarette more than his warmth. I get so irritated when he always comes to me for comfort — why can’t he go to Jack?

I feel like a failure. I feel like I don’t belong. I feel like, maybe, someone made a mistake. Maybe this isn’t what I was supposed to do. Maybe I’m not cut out for this.

Maybe I’m not cut out for the sleepless nights and the tantrums. Maybe I’m not cut out for being late to every single thing I ever try to do. Maybe I’m not cut out for struggling to get shoes on for half an hour, or meticulously teaching every letter a thousand times, or wiping the same butt for the millionth.

I feel like I’m suffocating. Truth be told, I still have it easy. My son is a good kid, an easy kid. So why is this so damn difficult?

I wake up and he’s there. I go to the bathroom and he’s there. I smoke a cigarette and he’s there. I try to eat a piece of chocolate and he takes it. I go to sleep and he steals my spot. Every moment of my life is centered around this fabulous being.

Don’t get me wrong, I know he’s amazing. I adore him. And I make sure he has all that he needs. But I do not feel like a good mother. I feel like I’m failing him. I feel like I don’t love him enough, even though I know that I do.

I feel like this should be easier. I feel like I’m waiting for a day that will never come. I feel like I should cherish our moments far more than I do.

I feel like I’m not cut out for this, but I push through because I know I have to be.

I just hope I get that initial spark back. I hope I can love him the way I’m supposed to. I hope this will stop, someday.

And maybe that hope means I am cut out for this, after all.

baby swing

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This post is part of the Confessional Series, written by Tempest Rose. To submit your own, please head over to The Confessional page.

 

Like Daddy

I never had to handle two dads in my life. At least, I don’t remember having to.

My parents divorced when I was 18months old. My mom started dating soon after, so there was a man in my life when I was my son’s age. I just called him Johnny. She didn’t start dating her husband until I was 6, so I just called him Donnie. By then I knew the difference. (Yes, their names rhyme.)

Even before I knew the difference, my dad was around. I knew who Daddy was. My son doesn’t have that. My son gets phone calls and pictures and a vague description of what and who Daddy is.

My son calls me Momma. I’ve never been Mommy, but most other kids call their mothers that. So at first he was a bit confused; when other people would call me his Mommy he would argue with them that I was, in fact, Momma. Now he’s starting to understand.

The other day, as Jack and I were putting him to bed, Holden was being playful and looked up and me and said, “Momma, you’re like Mommy!” I told him yes, I was.

Then he looked at Jack and said, “Jack, you’re like Daddy!”

At first we were both kind of stuck, we didn’t know what to say. So we both just said no. Then Holden repeated himself.

I said, “He’s like Daddy, but he’s not Daddy.” At the same time, Jack said, “No baby, I’m Jack. I’m just your friend.”

Holden seemed incredibly upset by this. He made a scowling face and told me, “Momma, Jack says he’s just my friend!” We quickly changed the subject.

Now I don’t know what to do. Because we’re both right — Jack is just Holden’s friend. And Momma’s friend. And a man who happens to be like a Daddy.

Sadly, I don’t think my son is old enough yet to understand the difference.

There’s a fine line when it comes to other people in children’s lives. I know that Nate feels threatened by Jack’s presence, but he also wants the best for his son. I know that Jack feels like a father to Holden, but he also wants to respect Nate. I want, more than anything, for my son to know and love his true father, but I also don’t want to disregard the important role Jack plays in Holden’s life.

So what does one do when the other parent is in prison? Well, we’ve already decided to tell Holden the truth from the beginning. Daddy is in jail. What jail is, well, we’ll tackle that when he’s old enough to understand. But what about the Who is Daddy? question, and where does that leave Jack?

I don’t know these answers yet. I’m still trying to work them out myself. But I can say that it’s hard — it’s very difficult to give my son everything he needs while at the same time not stepping on any toes.

I can say that Holden will know that Daddy loves him very, very much and would be here if he could.

I can say that Holden will have Jack in his life forever, and Jack will do father/son things with him.

I can say that I will never, ever belittle either of them or their roles, because they’re both such important parts of my son’s life.

As for the important questions, well, I can’t say what clever concoction I will tell my boy; I can only say it will be fueled by love, for all parties involved.

The Other Woman (On Gratitude)

Dear Nikki

 

At first I hoped you wouldn’t answer. I wasn’t sure what lie ahead if you did. I was nervous. I always am, when it comes to you.

And then when you did answer, I got even more anxious. Should I just relay Nate’s message and leave it at that? Should I bring up our scheduled ‘talk’ if you didn’t? Thankfully, you did.

And when you did all my worries faded away. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to hear your words, to know how you feel, to know I still have a chance.

Even more, I want you to know how elated hearing Nixon’s and Nathaniel’s voices made me. How excited they were to talk to me, to hear from me again, to hopefully see me. How Holden gasped when I told him he could speak to his brother and his sister. All of those things mean more to me than anyone could ever know. They brighten my world.

I know we’ve been through a lot. I slept with your husband and you abandoned your kids and we both held resentment for each other for a long, long time. But speaking on the phone made me feel like we were old friends catching up and that gives me hope.

I know we’ll never be ‘old friends’ again, but I hope we can at least get as close as possible, even if it’s just remaining friendly to each other.

But mostly, I want to thank you.

Thank you for the memories you’ve given me over the years, even though many of them weren’t so great.

Thank you for giving me the time of day after all I’ve put you through. I know many other people may not do the same. I know I probably don’t even deserve it.

Thank you for understanding my desires are not selfish, but for the kids. Of course I want to see them as well, but all I’ve ever really wanted was what’s best for them, and I know you do, too.

Thank you for giving me the chance I’ve longed after for so long. Thank you for letting me give you the chance you may have not even cared about.

Thank you for growing, for maturing, for understanding, and letting me do the same.

Thank you for being honest and kind. Thank you for coming back after all that time. Thank you for taking the time to heal yourself.

I may not be able to fathom leaving my child, but I completely understand needing to fix yourself for them. Thank you for fixing yourself.

Thank you, for everything.

Tempest Rose

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This is the third letter in the ‘Other Woman’ series. Click here for parts one, ‘On Apologies,’ and two, ‘On Forgiveness‘.


If you’ve read all three Other Woman posts, I’d love your input. Should I trust her? Should she trust me? Is it going to take us a long time to get to where we need to be? Have you ever been in a similar situation? Let me know!