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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Made By Dad? Uh, No. Not Here.

Dear Fat Brain Toys, Scott Bedford, and Workman Publishing Company,

Perhaps your little graph would show more equitable data if, oh, I don't know, you didn't imply right in the title that only males can build stuff. Are you instructing folk to build these projects with their penises? If not, why the discrimination?

I happen to be the builder in our family. My husband is useless for such things. He does the dishes and laundry. I refinish the furniture, build the bookshelves from scratch, and mow the lawn. He lays the sod, I do the breastfeeding. He kills the bugs and takes out the lizards, I paint the rooms and claim all the tools in the garage as my own. Yin and yang. None of those things require any special male or female characteristics, so I see no reason to put labels on them such as "man chores" or "woman's work."

Sadly, though, you disagree. It's clear that you are, as is typical in our patriarchal society, insinuating (not so subtly) that men are the builders (insert Tim the Toolman grunt here) and women have no place in such macho activities. Pah. Would it have really been so difficult to title the book "Made by Parents" or "Made by Familys," which would've been even more inclusive and would certainly up that precious data?

You want kids' brains to get fat? Stop limiting and relegating them based on their genitalia.

As it is, you've lost a potential customer. My son and I, ever on the lookout for projects to do together, are off to look elsewhere. Have fun building with your penises.


Amy the Toolwoman Mama

Monday, May 12, 2014

Godparents: How and Why We Chose Our Son's

I grew up Mormon, so the idea of godparents was completely foreign to me. My husband grew up semi-Catholic (he was Catholic on Easter and Christmas Eve), so godparents were a given to him. I like the idea, though. Especially given that our son is and will always be an only child, his dad is an only child (so no aunts, uncles, or cousins on that side), and we live quite a distance from the majority of our family, I like the idea that he has a couple more people who are there to look after and love him.

I had no idea how to go about it, though. I mean, I'm not overwhelmed with friends. I prefer to keep that circle small and tight. I asked around as to how others chose godparents for their kids. Lots of people chose their brothers and/or sisters. I didn't want to do that. I figured, my son already had my brother as an uncle and my half-sisters as his aunts, so giving the title of "godparent" to them wouldn't really change anything for anyone. Nope, I wanted to go outside of that pool. I wanted people similar enough to us that we wouldn't be at odds all the time, that they'd feel comfortable coming to see our son whenever they wanted, but different enough that they'd be able to offer him things other than we could, so that his world would be a little broader. I looked for culture, morals, big hearts, and fun.

The man in her life.
Our friend Sydney was the one who fit the bill as godmother. She is well-traveled and adventurous. Our son can travel the world with her in a way he probably would not with us. He will hike the tallest mountains, snowboard snowy slopes, climb rocks and cliffs with her, whereas that's not necessarily my bag. She cares about human rights. Some of her causes are our causes - gay rights, women's rights, caring for those less fortunate. Some of her causes are different than ours. He'll learn more from the combination of us than he could ever learn from just his parents alone. She cares. She puts on a tough front and doesn't let her soft side show often, but it's there and it's definite. In this case, I think our son serves to teach her to soften herself, let her vulnerable side come out, allow her heart to show. He is certainly my greatest teacher and if he can do a little of that teaching with others, we're all the better for it. And Syd is fun. She gets out there and plays with him. She is always up for a game, a run through the fountain, a soccer game...anything! In addition, she was adopted. I felt this gave her a connection to our son that few others could have. She was so desperately wanted by her parents, that they actively sought her out. Given our infertility, we had to do the same to get our son. Those are two deeply loved people, deservedly so. So, we asked her, she accepted, and now is forever our son's Aunt Syd.

We don't yet have a picture of Josh and our son together, so Josh has been subjected to this throw-back Thursday-ish moment instead.  Neener-neener, Joshy.
My cousin Josh made the most sense to our brains and hearts as godfather. He has recently returned from an LDS mission in Nicaragua. That is a part of the world my husband and I know nothing about, so Josh can teach our son. As for adventures, count him in! That kid does things that would scare the bejeezus out of me, but his unwillingness to let fear or doubt rule him is a quality I wish him to pass on to our son. He is morally strong. In fairness, our morals are not always the same, but, again, we did not wish who we chose to be clones of us, rather to give our son a broader spectrum of examples. What is important to us is that Josh always does what he thinks is right. That, more than anything, was the crucial thing. Like Syd, Josh isn't one to let his deeper feelings show. We come from a family that is a smidge emotionally stunted. In this way, again, our son can be the teacher. There's nothing like loving, open, honest kid to turn one's heart inside out. And oh how Josh is fun. I'm 16 or so years older than Josh, so I have watched him grow from the littlest sprout into the man he is becoming. One of the consistent parts of his personality is that he's always up for a good time, always smiling, always amusing. With him, our son will ride mountain bikes, wrestle good-naturedly, explore the outdoors in ways that might be a little too intimidating for me. So, we asked him, he accepted, and now is forever our son's Ninong (Filipino - half of his heritage - for godfather).

We didn't want our son's godparents to be such in name only. We wanted to bring into his life more people who would be actively involved. Aunt Syd has been around our son since I was in labor with him. She has been here for most every one of his big events. She thinks of him when she is away and even carries a stuffed dog he gave her as a gift whenever she travels. Ninong has only recently returned from his mission, so has been away for two out of our son's 3 1/2 years. As he regains his footing back in the real world, I imagine and hope that he'll be around much the same. I can't give our son siblings. I can't give him more uncles, aunts, or cousins. I can, however, give him two more special people whose only job is to love him. Aunt Syd and Ninong are those people. Lucky them. Lucky him.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

30 Things Series #19: On Becoming a Parent

This series, 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me, never lets me down. It always seems to work out perfectly that the day something special crops up is also the day that a corresponding post is due. Today is Mother's Day. I've written on it before here. It seems only fitting that I write on the day I became your mother.

The very moment I became your parent I felt such a mixture of emotions: relief, bliss, terror, elation, guilt, overwhelming love.

Relief because 34 hours of labor was finally over and you and I were both safe.

Bliss because I had you.

Terror because I thought I was dying. You can read more about it here.

Elation because I had you!

Guilt because I let you down with a C-section instead of our planned peaceful homebirth in the water. You can read more about it here.

Love because I HAD YOU!

Being your parent, your mama, is a feeling I am wholly unequipped to describe. I cannot tell you how much I adore you, how in awe of you I am, how proud I am of the person you are and are becoming. I can tell you how I felt the moment you came into the world. I will spend the rest of my life trying to tell you how I feel about you and will never fully be able. Suffice it to say, for now, I love you.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

30 Things Series #18: What My Husband Most Loves About Me

I put this particular post off, writing other posts in the meantime, for a long time, because I simply did not know what I thought your dada loved most about me. I had to finally break down and ask. The first thing out of his mouth is the thing I should've known he'd say, the thing he says first every time this comes up: I love that you're a good mom.

He's been saying a version of this since we first started dating. When we first met, I had three cats. (You know Sterling, Spot, and Sammi.) Turns out, your dada was highly allergic. His eyes were severely swollen and red, the sneezing was nearly unbearable, and he was in utter misery. I headed out to get him all the best over-the-counter medicines money could buy and came back to care for him. He always says that is when he first knew I'd be a good mom.

He has said over and over that one of the things that made him fall in love with me was that he could tell I'd be a good mom. This is something that was so important to him, because he didn't have that in his life growing up. You and I have talked, sometimes Dada has chimed in, about Dada's brain and that it works differently. He has Borderline Personality Disorder. 99% of the time, that is brought on by poor parenting. His brain thinks differently, making his life considerably harder than it should be, because he didn't have a very good mama or dada. So, when it came time to find a partner with whom he would share a life and raise a family, it was of the utmost importance to him that he found someone who would be a good mom to the child he knew he'd love more than he ever knew possible.

As a result of your dada's BPD, he struggles to be the parent he wants to be sometimes. He says regularly that he looks to me to be an example to him. I will say, that's a boat-load of pressure. Eeesh! I will also say, though, that being your mama is such an amazing journey and joy that I'll gladly take on a little more of the parenting load while your dada does his best to learn as we all go along. He's working on it, honey. He loves you so dearly. He whispers as much to you all the time. He's working on saying more loudly, showing it more clearly, making it absolutely crystalline to you that he does, in fact, love you with a fervor that he never knew in his own life.

But I digress.

Yes, Dada loves that I am a good Mama. Whenever I feel unappreciated, I need to remind myself to read this blog entry. Whenever I feel like a less-than-good Mama, I need to remind myself to read this blog entry. I'm a good mom. You deserve the best, of course, but I hope I will suffice. I do so adore you, my baby.

See more in the 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me Series by clicking HERE.

*This was all written and shared with Dada's permission, as everything mentioning him is. He has veto power when it comes to sharing his information, but he chooses not to exercise it, especially in cases like these, because he wants you to know the truth and get the full story - your full story.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Help Childhelp

When I was in elementary school in Beaumont, California, I had a friend named Andrea who happened to be a resident of Childhelp's local residential facility. At the time, I only knew that Childhelp was a place where abused kids went to live. I didn't know specifically what happened to my friend. I didn't know specifically what her "home" was for. I just knew her - happy, always smiling, very open Andrea. I don't even know if I knew her last name. I don't now, that's for sure and wouldn't share it here if I did. I do know that I have always remembered Andrea and always, as a result, supported Childhelp.

Now, I'm asking you to support Childhelp, too.

There are myriad ways you can help.
- If you donate directly, 90% of every dollar goes directly to supporting the children.
- If you are in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai'i, New York, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, or Washington, D.C., you can volunteer at a chapter or auxiliary to plan events to raise awareness, media attention, and funds for the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect.
- If you are a child or young adult, you can be part of the Childhelp Wings program to advocate for yourself and all others enduring abuse of all kinds including, but not limited to, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, as well as the abuse that youth face today in the form of bullying and dating violence.
- Athletes For Childhelp (AFC) helps athletes of all types (runners, bowlers, team sport players, triathletes, etc.) raise funds to support the programs of Childhelp.

Today, I'm asking you to do what is likely the easiest, least involved way of helping this worthy non-profit so close to my heart.

By taking seconds out of your day, you can download "The Button" to ensure that a portion of every purchase you make from thousands of websites will go directly to Childhelp. I've already done it. It took no time at all and required minimal effort or technical know-how. You can do it. It is my opinion that you should do it. It's the very least we can do.

Links are embedded throughout this post. Click on any of them. They have nothing to hide. In case you missed any of them, click HERE to visit their website and HERE to connect with them on Facebook.

Still need convincing? Check out these statistics:
- Every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving more than 6 million children (a report can include multiple children).
- The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect.
- A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.
- It is estimated that between 50-60% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.
- Approximately 70% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.
- More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.
- About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children.
- 14% of all men in prison and 36% of women in prison in the USA were abused as children, about twice the frequency seen in the general population.
- Children who experience child abuse & neglect are about 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity.

Know someone who is being abused or are being abused yourself? Call the National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD and get in touch with a crisis counselor 24/7.

Please, for me, for Andrea, for the five precious babes who die every day, show your support to Childhelp today.

Friday, May 2, 2014

On Being From a Broken Home

I won't say every child of divorce feels this way. I can't speak for all of us. I do know this is how I feel, even now after 30 years since my parents' divorce.

My parents hate each other. They've never even gotten to the point of apathy. They still actively hate one another. And for 30 years I've heard all about it. I've heard the names they've called each other, I've been told repeatedly how much they loathe the other, I've been told stories to discredit the other over and over and over. It's not a stretch then, when my somewhat broken mind draws the conclusion that they then hate the parts of me that are like the other parent. When I say and do things like the other parent, it seems only logical to me that they hate that part of me, too. When I share positive memories of one parent, inevitably the other seems to seethe, because I am not as filled with hatred as are they.

It hurts.

It hurts knowing that two people who created me, whose nature and nurture both influenced me, hate so very much the parts of me that are the other parent. It hurts knowing I can never been 100% loved, because I will always be, however partially, someone hated.

I share this not to change anything in my own family. Decades of history have pretty much solidified its dysfunction. I share this as a cautionary tale. Before you open your mouth, slit your eyes, purse your lips or otherwise show your derision about your co-parent, consider what your children are internalizing. Then consider again, because I guarantee they're internalizing more than you could ever imagine.