I love having friends that get me. Like My Pregnant Friend or Mistress of the Timpano or her preferred moniker, Awesome Sauce, which is by far the most appropriate.
She is completely awesome.
She’s preggers with her first baby and has come to me for advice.
Crazy, right? So I brought up the very important subject of naming children.
Me: Loony is already starting a pile for your baby girl. I assume you will be naming her something very feminine like Fallopia, Secretia, or Latrina. Labia is also quite lovely.
She didn’t miss a beat.
Awesome Sauce: Although I love your name suggestions, I am leaning more towards Sesquipedalian, Labyrinthine or maybe Murmurous. They are, you know, some of the most beautiful words in the English language – and we want her to be super sophisticated. I wanted to name her Vagina, and call her Vag for short, but Ben says that she might get called something like Whisker Biscuit or Twatlantic Ocean on the playground, so that would be mean.
Twatlantic Ocean? Whisker Biscuit? VAG! Apparently the hunter has become the hunted.
Hopefully she will take my advice on cloth diapers and baby wearing. Loony is a black belt in Mobywrapping.
Seeing her at the starting gates of getting in a family way only brings my current stage of parenting into sharp relief.
Just the other day we were going through our usual morning machinations. I was in my robe, Loony had left to volunteer at the church, and the kids were miraculously ready to leave.
I told them they could wait a minute for me to throw on a coat and boots or they could just walk by themselves.
And just like that, they were gone.
It happened so fast that I could hardly process it. We hadn’t planned for this moment aside from daily reminders about safety, streets and strangers.
I hadn’t put this day on the calendar.
Like I said, it just … happened.
You might get on me for letting my kids walk to school alone but my personal experience tells me that kids are capable of so much more than we give them credit for, and that we as a society strive to infantilize our children as long as possible.
Long past when it is good or appropriate.
And hey, they are my kids. I know them well enough to predict what they can and cannot do.
Imagine San Francisco in the 80’s. I took a cable car and a city bus to get from Chinatown to my school near Union street by 7:45 in the morning. It’s my version of walking to a mile to school in the snow with no shoes and uphill both ways.
My mom did it with me once and then I was on my own.
I was in the second grade and had just moved from Salt Lake City where my school was just across the street.
I was scared the first time but I’m grateful for the confidence that moment in my life gave me.
So no, I don’t think walking three blocks to school with your brother in little ol’ Boulder is all that dangerous; certainly no more dangerous than a cross-city public transportation with a half-mile of major street crossings in a big city.
That time in my life was an adventure. I got very good at using public transportation and I explored the whole city without my mother.
I visited the Exploratorium, The Palace of Fine Arts, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (we were members), the Embarcadero, Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Street, not to mention countless streets, thrift shops, neighborhood libraries and parks.
I still remember scraping my change together to buy the most wonderful pierogis at a Polish corner store that must have been twenty blocks away. I devoured them on the walk home. Oh they were so good!
I toured all the fancy department stores so I could ride the elevators and check out who had the best bathrooms (Nieman’s). I spent a lot of time entertaining myself and got very creative and resourceful. I was a natural city kid.
All this happened between second and fifth grade and I was usually by myself.
I am glad my mother trusted me enough to let me grow and build confidence, although as a single mom she didn’t have much choice.
Back to my boys. Later that day I checked in with the boys about how it felt. I was met with a monosyllabic Good in response.
I read Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy when the boys were young and it changed how I looked at parenting.
I want to raise confident and capable kids. I consult my personal experience and do a reality check when discerning what is genuinely risky or just fear mongering. I always ask myself if I think they can do something by themselves. Should they be able to do it by themselves?
I (or rather Loony) still walks them to school most of the time, but they did it. Another baby step has been taken away from the nest.
It’s such a shame that those early years of parenting are so intense. You want to enjoy every moment but many of those moments are so exhausting and hard that you are more focused on surviving them versus loving every minute.
My advice? Take lots of pictures.
My most favorite quote about those childbearing years comes from The Ghost of Hannah Mendes by Naomi Ragen.
Now I feel like the empty nester who warned the pregnant me to be careful not to blink, because it will be over before I know it.
And because of that I have been thinking long and hard about blogging. I love it. I can’t imagine shutting the door on my writing and creative outlet.
Just writing this post has been a rich exercise in remembrance as I look for just the right photo in long-forgotten albums and discovered a picture on-line of the boarding house in SF that my mom and I stayed in.
My past has become real and alive again, but now with the benefit of time and perspective. It’s invaluable.
But I need to take care.
I am obsessed with writing. I think about it all the time and I’ll shamefully admit that I often push my boys away so I can write or edit or search for just the right illustrations.
I don’t want my kids to remember me as always busy on the computer, for a blog that will likely confuse and embarrass them.
I don’t want them to think that I traded in their childhoods for this.
In the midst of this existential writing crisis, I wrote a feverish email to my favorite former blogger at two in the morning.
I say former because she gave it up. She regaled me with horror stories of what could happen if I was ever “discovered” (i.e. Freshly Pressed on WordPress) and she wasn’t talking about not knowing what to do with all the endorsement money. HA!
She warned me that blogging fame (such that it is) attracts creeps and vampire-like stalkers; the work intensifies and you probably won’t make any money. She told me that if my heart wasn’t in it, I should walk away.
But here’s the thing, my heart is still in it. Very much so. But I need to find a way to give writing a more appropriate place in my life so my boys won’t remember me as the person always putting them off so I could check my computer.
I don’t think I could live with myself if they did.
And as that fateful morning illustrated, they are already on that road to independence and it will only be a matter of time until being with them isn’t entirely my choice anymore. They will stop wanting to be around me.
I’m not trying to elicit sympathy or compliments or entreaties to keep writing. This, for once, isn’t about my ego needing stroking.
I will keep writing whether anyone wants me to. It’s a part of me.
I don’t write for you (well maybe I do, a little) I write for me. It helps me understand my past and plot my future.
And I desperately want to be the mom I want my kids to have.
And I need to keep writing in order to stay sane and feel like the things that happen in my life happen for a reason.
Here’s what I want to do:
- I will not write while the kids are at home and awake
- I can write when they are at school and when they are in bed
- I will not write when they are “otherwise occupied” meaning I can’t put on a DVD and sneak off to my computer
- No Facebook, no blogging, no responding to comments
You might not be able to tell the difference but hopefully I will. Hopefully my kids will, to0.