Doubting All Thomas’

My son just turned 5 and has been gaining more independence over the last few months. One of his displays of this new-found independence, which also plays out one fascinating aspect of himself – his maleness – is that he goes to the restroom on his own – The “Men’s” room. The other day, as I stood outside the door, waiting for his little body to return, something hit me. I had a stomach-turning realization that I do not trust “Men”. I trust some men, of course. I trust my husband. I trust all of the men in my family (oops, one exception). And I trust all of my male friends. But as I sent my young boy into a room full of strange males, I realized that I don’t trust them as a group, classified as the restroom sign stated in stamped out letters: “Men.”

I have been giving a lot of thought, since then, to this lack of trust. Where has it come from? Is it right? And, finally, what do I do with this?

I found my feminist voice during college, but even before my first Women’s Studies course, my orientation program was filled with seminars and skits about sexual abuse, about all of the programs set up on campus so that women did not have to walk alone, and about “no means no.” All great things. And perhaps where, if there was any doubt in my mind, it was made clear that “men” are not to be trusted.

Then, within those Women’s Studies courses, I began to understand, in an organized context, what women were up against in the world. From pay discrepancies to abuse, ranging from emotional to physical and sexual – it all made me angry. It never seemed like it should have been a male-female issue – they all seemed like human issues, but pretty consistently, the males played the antagonist. And it was easy not to trust this lumped together group called “Men”. At the same time, however, I found it easy to trust my male friends and boyfriends, despite their counterparts who felt it OK to grope women at parties or otherwise take advantage of their powerful bodies or positions.

After college, I moved to Houston, where I promptly got involved with the Houston Area Women’s Shelter. I volunteered on the domestic violence side of the organization because the other side, rape, was just too emotionally intense for me. I went through weeks of training, which entailed getting into the lives of these women – and men – who live out these violent patterns so that I could be sure that where I was coming from was a place of empathy and compassion – not pity or judgment. After sitting through support groups of women discussing their abusive situations and then sitting through groups of men that were court-ordered to attend and deal with their issues, I can see now that my resentment and suspicion of all males grew. All the while, though, I carried on very healthy relationships with men, in intimate relationships and as friends.

Then, very recently, I read the book, Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The book, if you noticed, is half-authored by a male. One I am sure I would trust. There are three primary topics in the book, all relating to bringing up women’s rights in the world and how this generates good in everyone’s world. The three topics were Rape, Sex trafficking, and Women’s Maternal Health issues. Need I say that those first two topics make me not only distrust “men”, but make me loathe “men”. What person pays money to have sex with a child, naked and scared in a room that is clearly her cell? “Men” do, that is who. And who uses their physical force to show women and her family who is in power by raping, often violently, and leaving their lives ruined after a handful of torturous moments. Yes, “men”.

After all of this contemplation, I certainly understand how I got to this place of fearing for my little boy entering the “Men’s” room. Is it right? Well, I certainly have a lot of evidence that “Men” can not and should not be trusted. But then I am also happily married and have great relationships with a lot of men in my life. I guess I have always trusted myself to be picking the good ones. And my little boy will one day BE a man! An enlightened, Feminist version of a man, of course, but a man no-less!

So, what to do with it….I don’t think I have the answer quite yet. But there is a song that I heard recently that has touched my heart in a profound way. I have never had this reaction to a song before, but for the first 4 or so weeks that I listened to the song, I cried every single time. The song is Mama by Libby Kirkpatrick (a fellow Austinite). These are the song’s simple lyrics (and if you go to the link, you can hear a sample of the song – 3rd one from the bottom), and I think that I may have my answer:

 

Mama the world is safe (insert my snuffles here)

You’ve got to believe me

Cuz if you’re afraid your gonna fall

Into the hands of those who betray you

Don’t you let them have it all

 

Mama the word is love

You’ve got to believe me

Cuz heaven above is right here and now

And if your fists are clenched too tightly

You can’t hold the world no how…..

The Sweet, the Sour and All of the Good in Between

Last night I had a meeting at my daughter’s pre-school. We have been having trouble with drop-off for, mmmm, about a year now, so I was talking to her about that. She is the most present, calm, compassionate person I know and I value her opinion greatly. So when she mentioned that “she [my daughter] has a very strong attachment to you[me]”, something tightened inside. I had to stop my eyes from rolling to the back of my head, thinking to my frustrated moments when trying to cook dinner, eat my dinner, clean up the house, or have any space to myself while she is around. “Uppie mama” she says, in the sweetest little girl voice one could have only gotten from angels. But the response is not always so sweet, “Eliana, mama is not available for uppie right now” my strained voice states as I clank the pots on the stove. There is someone that lives inside of me – the one who takes her sweet little hands, and removes them from my sweater, as she stands next to me, trying to crawl up to my heart. My attention turned back to her teacher, who was still talking, and I heard “relish it.” And then my ‘babble’ began. Something triggered inside of me, and it went something like this: “I know…I DO relish it, but we have our moments, hahaha. You know me – I’m kind of independent….I often think about why Eliana and I ended up together – I know we are perfect for one another – but at the same time…..I DO relish it, but, yeah, we have our moments.” She stared back at me with the experience of a woman who has compassionately listened to babbling mothers for years. And I thought to myself, why didn’t Eliana get YOU for a mom?

Years ago, when I was expecting our first, I was given a book that was about different mothering styles and it spoke to the challenge of mothers who have children that are either too similar to or too different from them. Not having children quite yet, much of the book was lost on me. But what struck me the most about this book was one of the mothering “styles”, which the author called “The Aloof Mother”. I had an emotional reaction to the idea that any mother could be aloof to her children. The book used the example of how an Aloof Mother could walk into a room where her child is, and not acknowledge her child, or at least right away, lost in thought about something else. I was horrified by the mere notion. Wellllll, I’ve sort of learned enough about emotionally reactions to know that that was my first warning sign. Enter me: The Aloof Mother. Enter my children: “Demanding and uber-attached”, words only an Aloof Mother would say.

Let’s just say I have a better understanding of the Aloof Mother now. It goes without saying that I love my children more than anything on the planet. I think I got the most special of them all and I am honestly honored (even if often overwhelmed) to be their mother. I am also very trusting of the Universe, so I know that we are absolutely perfect for one another. But sometimes my heart breaks for them because they got me.

When Eliana was a newborn, we waited our prerequisite 3 weeks and then started to introduce the bottle, with pumped milk. Wow- that was some aversion. So we patiently and gently waited and tried again and again. After ~ 6 weeks, I started to panic just a little. I had heard about babies not taking a bottle, but I had always assumed their parents didn’t try hard enough. I bought every kind of bottle known to man-kind. All of my friends understood my panic (even if they didn’t relate to it) and sent me articles, bottles and more method suggestions. I kept wondering how my life was going to go down, not being able to be away from my baby for more than 2 hours at a time. The dark clouds didn’t roll in, but they were waiting for the cue. I stayed optimistic for our 3-month milestone. But the time came, and there was still nothing that Eliana liked less than plastic nipples of any kind – no bottles or pacifiers for her. No way. No how. The entire city of Austin heard her rebuttals. I felt, at the exactly same time, frustration and doom that I was going to be attached to my baby for an entire year and then guilt that I would ever mind. I have a lot of attachment parent friends and I recognized that if Eliana had ended up with one of those mamas, they would not have even NOTICED that she didn’t take a bottle. One entire focus of “suffering” was another person’s source of joy. And that was when I started wishing another mama for her – the kind that doesn’t leave her children for any length of time for YEARS. But alas, that is not me. I tried to become, at least, a little more like that, and in my mind, I was forced to be. I spent a year with Eliana, never away from her for more than 3, maybe 4 hours on a “good” day. But I had a rough go. About 9 months in I started seeing a therapist in order to work on all the aspects of me that were being boiled up in this situation. And out of it all, I became a better person. A better mother. A better Aloof Mother.

It’s not a great title – The Aloof Mother. I used thesaurus.com to help me rename it, but Aloof is actually the nicest term in the list, other than perhaps, “laid-back”, a term that people actually very often use to describe me. I am not sure if I should run from the title and re-name it, or just embrace that I’ve been pegged and accept myself for all that I am. I am, at the end of the day, the best mother that I can be. That I am sure. I spend a good deal of time and energy working on myself – as a person, as a parent. So, where else would I turn to offer some insight into being Aloof? Aloof.com, of course (not kidding). There were lots of great nuggets to extract (with perhaps a little editing) from their, “How to be an Aloof” article, including “your detachment allows you to navigate through life during good times as well as challenging times without becoming outraged or angered”, but I think I can use this one to help me frame The Aloof Mother:

“One important thing to remember when being aloof is to never compromise who you are. That includes your style, culture, speech or anything else that makes you who you are. Treat others as your equal. Remember no one can make you feel inferior unless you give them your consent. By believing in yourself, staying strong, and being aloof, you will grow as an individual.”

As a Buddhist, or just a spiritual being, really, “who I am” can be an interesting question. But my heart knows. I am not “an aloof” or “an aloof mother” or any other title or label, even if I do enjoy playing with these things. If calling me ‘an aloof’ or even ‘Buddhist’ helps me disassociate from some of the chaos and turmoil, then, “yea!”  But who I am, most definitely is Me. And honoring that and listening to Her is all I can do. And trusting that, indeed, “I” am enough and all that anyone, including my children, needs. No compromise needed.

Five Minute Friday: Photo Prompt

kids in a box 001

Five Minute Friday

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Children in a box. So many connotations, depending on the moment, or really, my mood. I read a blog yesterday that had a woman admitting that she fantasized about sending her constant-question-asking daughter off in an envelope until she is 18. I wondered how she planned on getting her back then, but her point was WELL taken. I have my days when I would like to put my children in a box and ship them to grandma’s house or their aunt’s house or pretty much any house other than my own.

But not in this picture. Not in this moment. These shining faces (2 of them are my children’s smiles, one is our adopted neighbor boy – we adopted each other’s families and our sons are either at our house or theirs, but almost always together. I highly recommend finding adoptive families next door) conjure the warm feeling of childhood bliss. Of finding the extraordinary (this is a vessel of travel) in the ordinary (cardboard box). The box contained in it, in addition to these treasures, something even more valuable to them – Styrofoam peanuts!

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The East and the West

Getting ready to go out for my wedding anniversary tonight, I was not feeling well. I think I am fighting something off or have allergies or am feeling the lack of sleep from being up most of the night with a sick child or…take your pick.

I thought my remedy was funny and telling of my feeling on Western and Alternative forms of medicine (I believe strongly in both). I boiled myself some peppermint tea to settle my stomach and washed down two ibuprofens with it.

I am feeling much better. :)

Dear 2011

Hi! I am writing to check in with you and set up our relationship, given we’ll be together for the next year. I don’t know if you have spoken much to 2010, but I thought we could lay out some expectations for each other. Create something together.

To begin, my request is that we take 2011 just a tad slower than 2010. That year sort of blew in hard for me and I felt I never quite caught up. I was sort of, well, dragged through the year. Don’t get me wrong. No major catastrophes or tragedies, and for that I am always thankful. Even my husband’s pretty-big-deal illness and trip to the hospital left us a little more humbled and very grateful for our family’s normally very good health. I appreciated that little wake-up call from 2010. I just wanted to let you know that I am STILL really appreciating our family’s good health so I don’t really feel like we need a reminder on that right now. K?

Then, in my personal life – 2010 might have told you how I struggle to fit everything in that I would like to do: work (ThreeDefined), write (blog), read (book club), sing (lessons), run (for sanity) in addition to spending plenty of quality time with my husband and kids. And then this year I wanted to work in a more Spiritual and Buddhist focus – thought maybe I could even do a meditation retreat, which hasn’t happened in YEARS (since kids), SO, just putting all that out there. I realize this is all my responsibility to work in, just looking to you for some guidance, some coaching, to help prioritize. IF you could throw in a couple extra hours a day that would be great, but also understand if you can’t. Mostly, if you could just send some reminders to keep me grounded. Remind me that I know the answers and what I should be doing in every moment. I just didn’t get it all figured out in 2010, but feel with where I’m at, we could really make some progress in this area together. Thanks. Oh, and maybe a remind me to be patient with my children. This would be really good for them. And me.

2010 and I got along pretty well, professionally speaking. I launched ThreeDefined with two lovely friends, and that has gone along smashingly. No need to focus a lot here – we can keep things rolling along, but if I had to request something, it might be MORE clients in fun travel locations!

There is an area that I struggle with, 2011, and that is, ironically, given my letter to you, writing. I would like to focus more on the blog again. Writing is a strange animal for me. I keep saying it’s one of my focuses, but then, I leave it for the last thing to do, and not surprisingly, it never gets done. I know what you are thinking – just do it! I’m just asking that you nudge me along a bit. You can even prod. I’m open to a lot of signs for direction in this area.

So, that’s it, really. Just wanted to check in and let it be known that I’m tired of being pulled along like a mother with a place to go, dragging along her toddler to keep up. Tumbling over my own legs, one arm dragging on the ground, the other suspended above my head, trying to get my own footing. I’m offering you my hand. Please take it and let’s walk this year together. Looking forward to it…..