Poetry & Words

What People Don’t Understand About Having an Only Child

What People Don't Understand About Having an Only Child

Five years ago.  I don’t wish time to stop, because if time had stopped then I wouldn’t have today in all its glorious tumbling mix of beauty and brokenness.

No, I never wish time to stop.

This photo from the past is a femtosecond suspended in space — a single transient moment in time’s flight over us.

We’re in my favorite place on earth, high above the sea overlooking Bodega Bay, and the white-bright sunset is casting slivers of diamonds over us, by the handful. My pants don’t match my shirt, and I’m wearing my brother-in-law’s too-big shoes. She’s set to bolt away and grab fistfuls of sand. The sky is molten. We are hands on a clock, dials on the face of the sun.

And time flies on.

The shadows go round, and round, and round. She’s so little here, my third-grader, and my heart sometimes feels like it will split right down the middle.

See, she’s a miracle, you know, I miracle God granted in defiance of what time’s overly-speedy hands had begun to do to my physical body. And she’s light. Can’t you see it here, the light? True to her name, she’s Alenka, the radiance. When she was born, the nurse learned over the bed and asked, in a voice breaking under the weight of meaning, “What have you come to teach us?”

Strangers, won’t you step down and lift your head and open your eyes? Won’t you see beyond the narrow explanation you’ve created in your own mind?

You ask me why I had no more; I reply: no more arrived.

You ask so often. Do you realize how often you ask?

You never see the sorrow in my reply.

You ask at the line in the grocery store.

You ask at the library.

You ask at homeschool groups. (Oh, especially at homeschool groups.)

We’re dependent on God for so much. The thin tissue of our lungs fills and empties, fills and empties, fills and empties. We breath in oxygen; our organs are fed. We do not owe the function of these inner workings to our own righteousness. Our heartbeats, our respirations, the skin that covers these shells — gifts from the Maker, all.

Don’t count and measure and compare.

We aren’t given equal portions in this life, but we are given enough. We are given our portion. It is my sorrow that my arms cannot hold more; yet it is my joy they can hold the unspeakable gift I’ve been given.

Can you look at this life as liquid gold, with me? As chrysolite and as chalcedony? [1] We all walk sacred ground; there are no ordinary places. [2] We are souls inhabiting bodies; we are magic of the celestial kind.

Look to the Light, my friends, look to the Light and rejoice.

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Poetry & Words

Dear Internetz, I’m Done with the Negativity

Dear Mommy Blogs, I'm done with the negativity. I choose joy.

Dear Internetz Dwellers of the Mothering SubGenre,

I know, I know. I’ve read your weblogs. Mothering is hard. Our small people spill the milk, squeeze the juice boxes until they resemble Old Faithful, chew the corners of favorite books, and keep hours that make us wonder if they have second jobs as miniature convenience store clerks. There are too many choices when we shop, our kids won’t eat their leftovers and we went out with a melted Cheerio stuck to our heads again.

In the last decade, dear Internetz, I’ve watched your weblogs shift from GeoCities to LiveJournal to Xanga, and now to insta-infinity and beyond. And I’ve noticed something. I’ve noticed the chronicles slide down the negative path. Now, from where I stand in 2014, it seems the Mothering SubGenre is firmly entrenched in despair, doom, and dirty diapers — with a side of crude talk and bodily functions.

Haven’t you noticed, Internetz dwellers? The written pieces with the most clicks and comments — the ones your Facebook friends are sharing and your wifi-enabled friends are scrolling through while they’re sitting next to you — are the very blog posts raking the coals in the smoldering Mommy Wars. I watch as mothers sort themselves into teams; home vs. hospital vs. pool. vs cesarean section vs. octagonal hand-tanned artisanal reindeer leather yurts, then draw lines in the strewn toys and lob posts back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until the child in the woven sling vs. structured carrier vs. five point harness vs. car? flex fuel? peddle bike? organic donkey of burden-seat screams in frustration. (And editors of mothering publications? I’ve seen the guidelines and the pitch suggestions for the kinds of articles you want us to write. You’re fanning the flames.)

I’ve been listening, dear Internetz Dwellers of the Mothering SubGenre. I’ve been listening, and I’ve been reading, and I’m done.

I’m done clicking into the negativity.

I want no part of the lie that mothering is nothing but a sticky-fingered, foul-mouthed, angering pile of negativity.

I’m done, and I raise you an armful of joy.

No, not the kind of joy you mock when you blog about that woman in your playgroup who smiles a lot. Real, honest-to-goodness joy that spills down from the heavens and over all of us and over our homes and over our child(ren). Real joy, joy with roots, roots that run deeper than the storms and deeper than the pain and deeper than these momentary tribulations which are preparing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory [1].

There is enough real horror in the world without manufacturing negativity. There’s enough actual tragedy in the world without perpetuating artificial debates. I don’t know about you, Internetz of the Mothering SubGenre, but when I read that Meriam Ibrahim’s tiny newborn daughter is permanently injured because Meriam gave birth in chainsin chains! — there wasn’t a single ounce of my strength that had any will to raise up a stink about plastic vs. wooden toys. There wasn’t any strength left in me to do anything but cry out, “Oh Lord! Have mercy on this bruised and battered and fallen world!” Hearing how this woman — our sister — brought life into this broken world while shackled, should scream louder into our collective consciousness than BPA-free plastic, the Golden Arches, and the woe-is-me laments of our gilded excess.

Friends, the world is broken. The world is full of pain, and there is more abject suffering outside our circles than most of us, thank God, will ever know. There’s more than enough lifetimes of tragedies to break our hearts thousands and thousands of times over.

But despite this all, because of this all, as for me and my house, I choose joy. As for me and my house, I choose to rejoice — choose to search out the hidden joys, lift them up, and shout — without shame, condemnation, guilt.

This doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t cry out for the hurting and the broken. This just means I know the brokenness can’t win. The Healer has already triumphed. This doesn’t mean I deny the suffering around me. This just means I know that the darkness can’t win. The light has already triumphed.

And so I choose joy.

What about you? “Will you come with me to the mountains? It will hurt at first, until your feet are hardened. Reality is harsh to the feet of shadows. But will you come?” -C.S. Lewis

Poetry & Words

POETRY & WORDS :: Patriotic Eagle Hawk-Birds who Invisibly yet Condescendingly Guard the Gate

Orlando, Florida, the South, Trader Joe's and Hipsters

Aveline is in swim class now. This means, for 30 minutes every other day, I sit on a plastic chair pool-side,  and sweat buckets of water. It still a mystery to me how a human body physically can produce beads of sweat when the air around said body is already 100% saturated with water. Given the excessive humidity, it’s something of a physiological miracle. I’m not to dangle any appendages in the pool, because I’m not a resident of Exclusive Subdivision, and therefore unclean. So, I sit, sweat, and squint in the sun’s general direction, trying to suppress my motherly instincts and my own fear of treading water while Aveline sinks like a rock and the teacher (bless her heart) patiently shows her again how to do All the Things You’re Supposed to do to Avoid Looking Like a Penguin Attempting to Dog Paddle.

I live in the same zip code as Exclusive Subdivision. Well, it’s not actually called Exclusive Subdivision. People around here call it Patriotic Eagle Hawk-Birds who Invisibly yet Condescendingly Guard the Gate. It’s about 2 blocks from Lakes of the Large Stoic Aquatic Bird, next to Excellence in Everything School, which is just across the boulevard from where I live, Grassy Plains of the Imaginary National Monument (press two for English).

Neighborhoods here are funny. Even at the public parks, the official man on the golf cart can kick you out if you don’t live nearby. No, wait. That statement might be confused with something that actually makes a modicum of sense. The official man on the golf cart can kick you out if you’re not carrying a paper card, issued by the community office, which duplicates the address already printed on your driver’s license. These fanc-eh paper cards have a clip-art image of a crested tropical bird, and are only available at the town hall and the grocery store, next to the cigarettes and the whooping cough vaccines.

This spring, when I tried to sign Aveline up for Pee-Wee-Super-Tiny-Bordering-on-Ridiculous Soccer  (the soccer balls used vary between the size of large spring peas and large tomatoes), the soccer organization told me they weren’t permitted to run a soccer team in my neighborhood. The neighborhood association was concerned, they said. Kids without clip-art cards might try to join.

I’ve managed to live here for a few years now without getting a biodegradable ID card, but I do kind of have to duck and run whenever the official man on the golf cart starts trawdling* in my direction. [*not actually a word.]

The ironic thing is, this community isn’t actually high-brow. (I say this with a smidge of authority, since I’ve lived in approximately 4,028 different neighborhoods in my three decades on earth.) In fact, the newspapers here have been buzzing about the latest terror sweeping the streets: Trader Joe’s is coming to town. Being a Californian and interested in such things, I tried reading the news stories about the impending Grand Opening this month. I only got as far as (and I quote), “it’s a hellscape of scarf-wrapped hipsters.”

Apparently nothing strikes fear into the hearts of Patriotic Eagle Hawk-Birds who Invisibly yet Condescendingly Guard the Gate residents like chocolate-covered almonds and seaweed snacks.

Well, I know what I’m noshing on during Aveline’s next swim class.

I’ll leave the scarf at home, though.

Poetry & Words

POETRY & WORDS :: Parenting Magazines vs. Reality

Study says parents spend 21 hours per week actively parenting their children. This blogger says, HA HA HA HA

We receive a big stack of magazines every month, and of those, a large percentage are free subscriptions. I’ve never needed an excuse to read a magazine, although I don’t always fork over the cash for them. Once, when my mother-in-law was trying to describe me to an employee at a library we both frequented, the disappointed librarian exclaimed, “Oh yes! She checks out…magazines.”

Some magazines, like Martha Stewart Living, Dwell, and Inc., I love. Others — like Parents — I find myself reading just because the content baffles me so much.

For instance, a few months ago, Parents ran a Venn diagram of stay-at-home moms vs. outside-the-home working moms. The word “exhausted” was conspicuously absent from the stay-at-home mom’s circle. I rubbed my eyes and looked again, thinking perhaps my sleep-deprived orbs deceived me. But I showed the magazine to two or three well-rested friends, and they saw the same thing. Outside job or not, I think any woman who has brought forth another human from her own body will agree “exhausting” is a mild and kind descriptor.

This month, one of the feature articles in Parents is about hyperparenting. I have no idea what hyperparenting is; but admittedly, I’m still getting used to the idea of the word “parenting” being tossed around as a verb. My Oxford dictionary tells me  n., a father or a mother; but then again, there’s probably a word for people who still own multiple copies of physical dictionaries, too.

I’ve been reading the article in snippets, in between explaining to a small bouncing kangaroo the difference between the clothes in the laundry basket and the clothes in her dresser. (“I not Aveline today, mummy. I just a little kangaroo.”) The author, Gail O’Connor, cites a 1995 University of California, San Diego study which apparently found that “mothers spent an average of about 12 hours weekly actively attending to their children”. The author goes on to say that “by 2007, that number had risen to 21 hours.”

Certainly the author meant 210 hours? Because, in any given 168-hour week, I would say about 210 of those 168 hours are spent actively attending to my child — er, kangaroo.

I started a load of wash, first stopping to gather up Hello Kitty unders from various points throughout the house while once more expounding upon the virtues of the laundry hamper to my bouncy offspring. I then stepped on a Lego, removed a My Little Pony comb from my screeching kangaroo’s flowing locks, and spent the next fifteen minutes explaining that I could not, in fact, miraculously refill the squeeze bottle of Elmer’s despite the pile of farkly [sparkly] beads just begging to to be glued into the coloring book pages.

I turned back toward the coffee pot. I could see the fluorescent light glinting off the stainless steel of the French Press. The miraculous vision blinded me, and I tripped over the magazine. Twenty-one hours per week, it said.

Cold coffee in hand, I moved a pirate and a Lego flower and sat down again to ponder this. Last Wednesday was 24 hours long, five of which I slept, except for the two occasions at 4 AM and 5 AM when I was, in fact, not asleep and instead in my kangaroo’s room bouncing her. (Ah, how the tides have turned.) According to my highly-calibrated mathulator, I logged 21+ hours of “actively attending to a child” on Wednesday alone.

Staring blankly into the bottom of my coffee mug, I suddenly remembered where we had an extra bottle of Elmer’s glue. “Aveline!” I called, holding out the magazine. “Do you still want to glue beads?”

Poetry & Words

POETRY & WORDS :: Why I Don’t Blog, Instagram or Tweet About Poo

www.oaxacaborn.com - Why I Don't Blog, Instagram or Tweet About PooEvery once in a while, I receive feedback that I’m looking at the world through glasses that are too rose-colored. That my blog doesn’t live in reality. That we’re too happy.

But the fact is, I’m just like you. I have a two-year-old who whines, sometimes refuses to nap, and frequently makes the house look like a disaster zone. I’m human: my clothes get stinky. Our floors get sticky. Sometimes I get a cold and my nose runs. And everyday, lots and lots of forks and plates and mugs end up in the sink.

But I choose to focus on the good. I choose to focus on the beauty in this life. And that’s why I don’t blog, tweet, or Instagram about bodily fluids or the digestive process. (Except for this post, in which I confessed I quit cloth diapering.)

Why don’t I talk about snot noses? Well, for one, who wants to dwell on that? Certainly not I. And who wants to go someone else’s blog and read about more poopy diapers? I have plenty of them in my own house, thank you very much.

I view this space — as well as the collective timeline of who I choose to follow on various social media channels — as a source of inspiration, a place where I am refreshed, and, I hope, a place where you as the reader can be similarly encouraged and recharged.

So why would I want to focus on gross stuff?

I’ve heard various reasons for writing/ranting/photographing snotty-nosed kids and diaper leaks. None of them really hold up for me.

I’ve heard, “But it’s something everyone can relate to!” Yes, everybody poops. But that’s doesn’t give you carte blance to lose your self-respect and Instagram about poopy diapers ad nauseum. Poo’s not edifying. It’s not encouraging. (You know, there are entire organizations dedicated to improving sanitation in developing countries, but sometimes I think a campaign to clean up “mommy blogs” would do wonders for the morale of mothers in this country. I’m not entirely joking.)

I’ve heard, “But I want people to know I’m real! I don’t want them to think I live a fairy-tale life…I want to be relevant!” Honey, I use the toilet too. We don’t need to swap stories about it in order to solidify our friendship.

And I’ve heard, “But sometimes I’ve had a really bad day and I want others to commiserate!” Oh, I get this. I really do. In fact, bad days are sometimes why I blog. Sometimes, I sit down to write about whatever beauty I can see because it helps me put my eyes back on heaven where they belong. I am not superhuman. I have my share of down days — bummer weeks! — but here’s the thing: focusing on the gloom never did anything to help me snap out of it.

Focus on something good. Focus on something other than yourself. Rise above the diapers and the dirty dishes — see the joy beyond the chores or even in the chores! Widen your world! Too often I think, we as mothers live in a chaos zone, look at other people’s photos filled with pictures of disastrous spaces, read blogs and tweets about digestive processes, and get stuck in a very miserable rut. And then we post pictures of our own woes, with moaning captions, and it starts all over again.

Break the cycle! Stop dwelling on the exploding nappies. Resist the urge to post a whiney Facebook status about how much that diaper change stunk. Open the window, marvel at the way the sun is filtered by the curtain’s wavy movement, really LOOK at your little one’s face, and watch your entire perspective begin to be transformed.

Sometimes I change into something nice, turn on some music, and sit down in the middle of the living room rug with Aveline for some milk and cookies — not because it’s a good day, but precisely because it’s been a bad day.

It’s never too late to press the reset button.

Don’t be a martyr. Look at it this way — as mothers we have to bear the cross of dirty diapers and snot noses, I’m not denying that. But it doesn’t have to become a badge we wear with pride. You’re worth more than that! xo