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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Toothbrushing

Today Alexis and I were brushing out teeth together in the bathroom before we left for the day. I noticed that she kept looking at me in the mirror. Then I noticed that she was imitating how I brush my teeth...if I went to go do the top ones, she did the same; moved the brush to the side, so did she, etc., etc.. She even leaned over the sink and spit the exact same way that I did.

This is a rare moment for us. Alexis has never been one to really show much interest in imitating what I do. There is just not too much fascination with the grown up things that I do that even I remember having with my mom as a child. Hell, even Elizabeth at the age of 12 will try to sneak using my perfume (though Very Sexy from Victoria's Secret is not my first choice for a child her age...) and my face cream and asks to borrow my shoes. Alexis just never really seemed that into "being just like Mommy".

She is fascinated with the things that her father does, though. Trucks and mowing the lawn and being outside...she is very much like him in those regards. Once she was through with breastfeeding (and I think that the constant fear that she had that her food source would go away...that child came out of the womb ready for a four course meal) she really seemed to have no use for me. She is very much so a Daddy's girl...Daddy is who she turns to when she is scared or upset. Daddy is who she wants to cuddle with nine times out of ten. Daddy is who she calls for to wipe her butt when I am standing right in the next room (OK, I am perfectly fine with that one...)

I guess it is only fair. Elizabeth and I were together alone for four years. We did everything together. I played Miss Clavelle from Madeline more times than I like to think about (me, a nun? Really? That is some imagination that kid used to have!).

It just hurts a bit. They are both pulling away from me, for very different reasons, but it is still there. While I will admit that it is nice to not have Alexis intensely hate, oh, EVERYONE, as she did when she was a baby, it still burns to know that I am not the one she wants to kiss her boo-boos. The same applies to Elizabeth, if I were to tell the truth. It is hard.

Moments like the one this morning, though, give me hope. Hope that I am not just a peripheral. Hope that I AM somehow, some way, affecting my children's lives. Molding them, shaping them. That I do matter somehow to them, in a tiny way. I guess I am doing my job, since it is their job to become separate from me. No one told me, though, how quickly it can happen, as in the case with Alexis, or how agonizing it can be when it finally does, as with Elizabeth.

Will she remember brushing her teeth with me this morning? Doubtful. But during those times when that child makes me want to rip my hair and hers out, I will think of that moment and remember that I do influence her a tiny bit. And maybe, just maybe, it will help me to think twice before I lose it on her. Maybe, it will help me to be a better parent to my very different and unique children. Especially the one that is especially difficult.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Daddies

Alexis has been totally a Daddy's girl lately. This means that any time that I have tried to do anything for her, such as getting her dressed or brushing her hair or yanking her out of the way of the oncoming traffic she was about to run into in a desperate attempt to get away from the evilness that is anyone NOT DADDY, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. She threw a big ol' fit too.

It really warms my heart to see how much she loves her father, especially since as a baby, she was antisocial to the point of being diagnosable. With something. Perhaps Schizotypal personality disorder. Or just being an asshole. Seriously. She only wanted Mommy, and I firmly believe that was just survival instincts kicking in and knowing that I had da boobs. Da boobs=eating, which she did. Voraciously, and often.

However, I got to thinking today...I wonder how much it hurts Elizabeth to see Charles and Alexis interacting. To look at her and to know that her own father has not been there for her that way. To know that while she and Charles are close, the bond that they have is slightly different from the one that he has with his own flesh and blood, despite the fact that he has essentially stepped into the father role for most of the year. Does it hurt her to see that relationship that, through no fault of her own, she does not have? Does it hurt her to have Alexis crave her father's attention, when before she used to be all about her "Sissabeth"? And to see him willingly dote upon Alexis, when being a teenager, Elizabeth does not dare to reach out like that?

I do what I can to facilitate the relationships with both Charles and her bio dad. Despite temptations in the past, I do my damnedest to not bad mouth EITHER in front of her. But is it enough? Have I done enough to ensure that BOTH my girls have the role model they need?

Or maybe I just worry too damn much...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Winning

Elizabeth's volleyball team last Thursday ended their winning streak and is no longer undefeated. Normally, I would not think this was that big of a deal. Heartbreaking for the girls on the team? Sure, but nobody's perfect. You can't airbrush your way into winning a match.

However, her team played like they had their heads up their asses. Really. Now I am not really one of "those parents" who lives vicariously through her children in a futile attempt to re-write history. I cheer when she does well (and when her team does well) but I don't yell at the refs or throw out negative comments. It is elementary school intramural volleyball, for God's sake...it is not like her entire college education is resting on how well her team performs because there are scouts in the stands, for Chrissakes...

(Though I will admit that I have briefly entertained the idea that she might get a scholarship...)

I digress. Playing like their heads are where the sun don't shine....they were very apathetic out there. Normally they are all running all over the place, actively trying to go for the ball, trying their very best with each and every serve. Last match...not so much. If I did not know better, I would have thought that they were all playing hung over. They did not even try.

After the game, I asked Elizabeth what the fuck was up with the team (well, maybe not in those exact words...) Her response? "Well, we scrimmage them all the time and they ALWAYS beat us. We knew we weren't going to win. Maybe the coaches should not have had us scrimmage them so much..."

My jaw hit the floor. That disturbed me on so many levels...

First of all, the whole blame shifting. It is the coaches' fault they lost...because they had them scrimmage a team a few times? (BTW, her coach is my husband's cousin wife...I asked her about that and she said, "Uh, we don't even keep score when we scrimmage...")

The second thing that disturbed me was the fact that they did not even try because they thought that there was no way that they could ever succeed in the first place. Keep in mind that this is an all girls team she plays on, made up of 4th through 6th graders. It got me thinking about how many other things this attitude has been applied towards, and how this comes about. Girls who are told that math is hard (by their Barbie dolls, no less!) so that they should go into an easier field. Girls who are told that "good girls don't sleep around" so they slut shame themselves because that is what others are telling them they should do. Girls who are given the message, implicitly or explicitly, that there are certain things that they just need to accept about society, such as the fact that they cannot be trusted to have autonomy over their bodies, that men will never be nurturing, so therefore if they have a man take care of the kids that they are horrible mothers...or even the fact that all they should ever aspire to be is a mother at all!

What are we teaching our children? How did girls so young already internalize the message of, "I can't, so why bother?" This was just more proof to me that things are NOT equal and feminism is still needed. We have come a long way...but there is still a long way to go.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Parenting

Helpful dads can hurt mom's self-esteem

Oh, this rang so true for me.

I make more money than Charles does, even with his overtime pay. My benefits are way better, too. Yet I still feel the sting of guilt when he has to take the kids to their doctor's appointments. I feel as though I have somehow failed when I am not there for them constantly, even though my husband is more than capable of attending to whatever they need while at the doctor's.

We have a more egalitarian marriage than most. My husband realizes that he truly does benefit by being involved with the girls and vice versa. It was not always like this...after Alexis was born, things were really bad for us. I almost left him. He was never home, I was responsible for EVERYTHING, on top of going to school. I still can't put my finger on exactly what happened to change...I got pregnant unexpectedly, then miscarried, then got pregnant again and had Gabe. Somehow, ironically, those things brought us closer.

Now my husband is more than willing to leave early to take the girls where they need to go. He gets outside and plays with them. His life in inundated with more estrogen than he knows what to do with. He will make dinner some nights, and is willing to help me clean if I ask. He has even gotten to the point of actually cleaning something without me asking him to do so first. I never dreamed that I would see the day when my big, burly husband would play tea party with our daughter. He truly has come a long way and I have the pictures to prove it (even if he won't admit that it would be OK for a man to wear make-up to Alexis...we have not overcome all cultural conditioning).

Where does this leave me in the scheme of things? Does my family not need me any more now? They are capable of functioning on their own without me. Why does this have to be a bad thing? It is certainly not, and is certainly freeing for me. However, I can sometimes almost feel the judgment from other people (mainly women) when I am not there for certain things. I can almost feel the contempt from people who think that I am putting a career in front of my kids. It is from other, external sources that my discomfort comes from. I am damn lucky to have a husband who acknowledges that there is always room for improvement on BOTH of our parts; who acknowledges that there IS more that he can do and that I DO do the bulk of chores and arranging of our lives. That is not imagined....even with him doing what he does I still do a lot. We are very happy in our lives, despite Elizabeth becoming a teenager and Alexis being a preschooler :p

When will society stop judging people on some pre-conceived notion of what SHOULD be and start judging people on what WORKS and what produces good outcomes?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter

On Friday, Elizabeth and I were headed into town to go grocery shopping. We passed the local Catholic church, where out in front of it they were re-creating the Passion. Elizabeth asked, "What the hell are they doing?" (Well, ok, not really, but that was totally the tone of voice she had...) so I explained it to her. At first, she was all horrified thinking that they were actually going to crucify someone (she was reassured that it was, in fact, just a re-enactment. I hope...) then she got to thinking about the whole Resurrection thing. She said, "Jesus died on Friday and rose three days later, right?"

"Yeppers. Why?"

"Well, I was just thinking...if one of my friend's did that, I don't know if I would want to be their friend again...that is kinda weird."

"Oh, Jesus. Don't say that to your Grandma..."

Happy Easter!