MAKING IT ALL WORTH IT

randos

Reposted from my public Facebook page:

Hello everyone! Welcome! Today is my 39th birthday. I am celebrating by spending time with my family–my parents, husband, and our beautiful daughter.

After much soul-searching, I have also decided what I want to do about the rather shocking flood of hatred (including more wishes for death than I want to count) coming this way after a recent article I wrote about my family’s cussing culture and the taboo and ethics of mothering imperfectly in public got picked up by some conservative outlets that meant me harm.

Many of these individuals have “threatened” to “call Child Protective Services” on me, not knowing that among my Facebook (and real) friends number at least a dozen social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists and other mandatory reporters, and that if any of them believed even for one second that anyone in my family was in danger, social services would have been on my doorstep two months ago, when I posted the first “hard-won-nap victory” selfie.

In fact, every state’s Child Welfare division (whether called CPS, DCFW or CSD) is tragically underfunded. One of the best services performed in my parents’ home of Eugene, Oregon happens to be a location where I performed volunteer work in high school: the Eugene Relief Nursery. They do invaluable work for at-risk families and their children.

So I have decided that for every ignoramus who threatens to “call CPS” on my adored, immaculately cared-for child, I will donate $5 to the Relief Nursery. (Every time the odious Katie McGuire mentions me in print, I will donate $25.) I urge anyone, friend or foe, who actually cares about child welfare, and not going after the scalp of a feminist mother who made the “mistake” of publicly admitting that motherhood is not 100% rainbows, to donate $5 as well. You will be helping actual families in need by doing so. Thank you! Pass it on!

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Seven Months: Superstar of Airplanes, Restaurants (and the Internet)

Babby, ranting

My Delectable Little Munchkin!!!!!!

Today, you are seven magnificent months old!!! You’ve been quite the little traveler since last I wrote you a letter you will (hopefully) never read. We started the month back in upstate New York at your Babcia’s.

“Hello, Babcia! I miss you! But not the bed that was so small that it muscled Papa out onto the literal actual floor every night!”

DIGRESSION about your mama and her electronics: I spent our last days upstate taking a break from writing, courtesy of my computer giving up the ghost. I then very stupidly took it to some local chop-shop to try to get it fixed, with the instructions to wipe the hard drive and re-install the system software. I guess I should have specified “re-install somewhat recent system software,” because when I got the machine back it was running an OS from 2010. I shit you not, little baby who definitely cares about her mother’s system software. It took 20 minutes to boot up, and every keystroke had a lag time of like 45 seconds. It was like working on Windows 95. What the fuck? Ever since I had you, I have been relying on fifteen- and twenty-minute slices of time to write. That is how my articles and book are getting done. Suddenly that time was being spent trying to locate Word and type two sentences. Anyway, long story short I ended up dipping into my savings and buying a new computer, and your papa is going to get the old one reconditioned. I AM SURE YOU CARE. But you should because this is a life lesson, kid. People in rural computer clinics are dipshits, or play the most obnoxious pranks ever imaginable. The end.

After a grueling two-day car ride back to St. Louis, you spent a week delightedly reuniting with YOUR SHAPEYS!!!! Your dad and I spent the week sweating our literal (in his case) and metaphorical (in mine) balls off, unpacking all of the shit that we had packed up in anticipation of moving out of your house, which we allegedly sold but didn’t. It was kind of worth it, though, just to see you so happy with those shapeys again (or, more accurately, I probably have an emotional attachment to that condo, because it is where we brought you home from the hospital).

(On the road, you did love the king-sized bed in the motel, as well as the MOTEL CUPS, both cardboard and plastic. Holy shit, I could have saved about $150 on baby toys at this point and just bought a bulk pack of kegger-style Solos and you’d be the happiest Kid in the Western Hemisphere.)

(You’re naked here because you’d just taken a HUGE crap, and I kept yelling for your dad to come assist, and he didn’t answer, and I thought he was just dicking around in the bathroom ignoring me, but really he’d ducked out to use the tiny motel gym.)

The last two days of our time in St. Louis were spent with you having a perfectly decent time and me going totally fucking unhinged in anticipation of your first trip on a plane. I have been so conditioned to be ashamed of interrupting the US Weekly-reading bliss of your average economy-class traveler that the mere thought of being trapped on a flying e.coli-canister with you in a bad mood made me break down every day in shrieking, panicked sobs. Your dad basically had to take the reins in the house while I spent my days hyperventilating and crying it out.

(Also, with you taking baths in your new duckie tub, WHICH YOU LOVE. I don’t think you realize baths have any discernible purpose beyond HOORAY SPLASHETY PLAY PLAY PLAY. This is the only reason why you are anything approaching “clean” any of the time.)

AND THEN…the day came to get on a plane.

We got to the airport…

And you goofed off for a few minutes…

…and then, you fell asleep. You slept through boarding (which they make people with babbys do with the rest of the hoi polloi now, because Platinum Diamond Elite Polo-Playing Butt-Card Business Fuckos need more time to get settled into an airplane seat than a family with a little baby does. Everybody knows this).

You slept through the first two hours of the two-and-a-half our flight. You didn’t cry when the air pressure change got to your ears. You nursed, and you looked around the plane, and everybody in the neighboring rows made faces at you and told us how cute you were. Then, after a mad hurtle through the Denver airport (20 minutes to make a connection between two gates that literally COULD NOT HAVE BEEN FURTHER AWAY FROM EACH OTHER), which you thought was delightful fun, we settled into our second flight, which you spent bouncing off the walls, shoving every single filthy accoutrement from the seatback pocket into your mouth (Jeebus help us, you didn’t get sick), and generally charming the other passengers.

We finally arrived in Eugene approximately three hours past your normal bedtime, and you were surprisingly amenable to the car seat on the way home from the airport, by which I mean you only had a minor shit-fit, and not a major one.

Since then, we have been settled in to the spectacular new room your grandparents built on the end of their house, for the specific purpose of guilting your mother into spending as much time at said house with you as possible. IT’S WORKING. Every day, your grandparents act like it is the greatest gift in the world to babysit you for a few hours, while your mama writes her articles (more on that soon), finishes her book (less on that soon), and…get ready for it…GOES TO THE GYM.

Your grandma was kind enough to add our whole family to her Family Membership at the Y, and that includes babby swim classes that we will take soon! GET READY! But for now, it more importantly includes your mother finally, finally wresting herself off of her ginormous buttocks and getting some goddamned exercise for the first time since you were born. The Y is only two blocks away, so I can be beckoned back to the house anytime you start melting down. Yes, I am enjoying the possibility of shedding the twenty or so pounds of Mom Bod that have decided to take up semi-permanent residence since you arrived on the scene and I started eating my feelings. But more than that, I am enjoying the act of taking care of myself again. For the past seven months, all I have wanted to do is take care of you. When you were first born, I told your father I wished I could be awake for 24 hours, I wished I didn’t need to eat, I wished I could be the constant source of care you needed all the time. And more or less I was. But eventually, I realized that unless I took better care of myself (or, you know, any care of myself), I was going to keel over and die, and then where would your boob gravy train go?!?!? SO, the gym.

We love it here in your mama’s hometown, where you rock your spiffy new T-shirts and get carted around the neighborhood in the ludicrous ultra-deluxe Radio Flyer seat-belted, cup-holder-having wagon that your papa and I had shipped here because you loved the (decidedly more DIY) wagon setup at your babcia’s so much.

Last month, the two teeth that you grew were the cause of untold amounts of agonized crying, sleeplessness, drool-based pooptastrophes, and more than one occasion when you decided to treat your mother’s boobs like five feet of Bubble Tape. We’ve been terrified of teething ever since — and then last week, your papa brought you in from playing with you in the backyard and said: “Guess what’s going on with our daughter? She’s got another tooth.” And sure enough, one of your big fat top front teeth poked its way right through, and we didn’t even notice. It’s not big enough to show in pictures yet, but hopefully by your eight-month letter you’ll be looking like a little bunny rabbit.

You continue to explore the culinary delicacies of whatever region you happen to be in — here you have taken a particular liking to the ripe Oregon blackberry, which you like to enjoy in your first-class laundry basket accommodations while wearing another spiffy new T-shirt that makes you look like Andrew McCarthy in Pretty in Pink.

You aren’t quite old enough to partake in most of the games and toys in the game/toy closet your grandma set up, preferring instead to get your maw around ping-pong balls, kitchen utensils, rocks, watches, and anything else that may potentially kill you. Your actual baby toys are mostly fodder for your new best friend Billy Budd, the idiot Cairn Terrier who doesn’t let his Cone of Shame stop him from patiently waiting by your side until you get a squeaky toy within his range, and then straight-up stealing it from you. So far you have only grabbed Billy Budd with your Not Gentle Hands a few times, and he hasn’t seemed to give a shit, but I am vigilant when he’s around and barely let him within three feet of you most of the time. Because, see, he’s an idiot.

Your babbling has more purpose now. Every once in awhile I think your BAH or GAH is actually, possibly, referring to an actual thing or person. You also have a more complex set of emotions (though they’re just as intense, bless you). Sometimes when your papa or grandparents take care of you for awhile and you don’t see me, and then I come back into the room, you crack a smile so big I think it’s going to bring the house down. And then, just as fast, you reach out to me and grab me and start to bawl. It’s like: OH, YOU!!!!! I LOVE YOU!!!! WAIT!!!!! WHERE WERE YOU?!??!?!?!?!?!?

We continue to dress you quasi-androgynously, and everyone continues to refer to you as he. “How old is he?” Sometimes I just go with it, other times I say: “Actually, he’s a non-gender-conforming she.” I realize this is obnoxious. But in the last week, I have never wanted to protect you more from the relentless gendering that plagues us from (before) birth.

It’s my fault, of course, because this week I embarrassed you in print YET AGAIN, by writing what I thought was a pretty funny think piece about why I sometimes flip you the (JOKING) bird after you fall asleep, if you’ve given me a hard time in that department. Of course I wait until you’re snuggled in next to me, sighing and content and fed and unconscious, and I only do it as a joke, and I thought this would be readily apparent in the piece, but it wasn’t. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I expected people to be offended. I expected, even, some threats to call CPS (and there were). Oh hell, I expected everything I got, but it still hurt. There were the usual insistences that I am far too ugly to have my visage displayed on the Internet at all:

— I’m not saying it was ALL bad, because it wasn’t. (I’m especially grateful for Mr. Pierce’s astute contribution):

  But there was certainly plenty of this:

And, of course, the expected intimations that I am abusive, and a superlative bestowed upon me with a lot of thought, even though I’m pretty sure Ted Bundy had a mother too.

Don’t misunderstand me, sweet perfect daughter of mine. I am so glad you are a girl (for now; you can choose your own gender identity when you’re older!). Because I’m a girl, and I like being a girl, and I wouldn’t want to be a man. But I also know that if I were a man writing with bluntness and humor about my life, I would not be getting this kind of seething, gendered crap about it. People say that because I am a writer for the Internet, I should just get used to this shit and grow a thicker skin, but that ONCE AGAIN puts all the responsibility (and most of the blame) on the person (THE WOMAN) getting stuff done to her, rather than the people (often, but not always men) doing the doing. Oh, dear daughter, even though you will probably be very intelligent, how many jerkoffs are going to fail to take you seriously, cut you off mid-sentence to mansplain your own area of expertise? How many assholes are going to demand you have sex with them, and then, when you refuse, tell you you were ugly and fat to begin with (if you’re lucky; if you’re not, they’ll just take the sex they were due in the first place). How many more assholes are going to blame you for being too slutty/too puritanical/too sensitive/too bold/too anything, if something awful happens to you in a frat-house basement in 2034? How many times, when you’re growing up, will you go HEY MAMA, WHY ARE YOU CRYING? only to hear, “OH, well, mama got called a ‘cunt’ in print again.” I cannot change any of this. I cannot protect you from any of this. I take only mild (and guilt-ridden!) comfort in the fact that because you’re a Caucasian you’ll still have it better than your sisters of color. All I can do is keep dressing you like James Spader for as long as you’ll let me.

Oh, my daughter. My daughter, my daughter, my daughter. You babbling, interactive, enthusiastic, exploration-mad, squealing, flapping, grinning, hugging, snuggling, TV-watching (not a lot! but you love Mr. Robot!), not-that-great-at-sleeping, tooth-growing, perfect little bean. I want to explode I love you so. I want to squeeze you until you pop, and then eat you whole.  My precious, precious daughter.

All my love,

Mama

Lord Of Your Choice Help Me

Babby, Slate

Today on Slate, I have an article up about the photos many of you longtime readers have already seen, of myself “celebrating” the baby’s hard-won nap or nighttime sleep by cheerfully (and tongue-in-cheekily) flipping her off. Some people think it’s very funny. (Thank you, those people!!!)

Oh god oh god oh god

Oh god oh god oh god

There has already also been quite the anger-response around the Internets. My favorite sub-oeuvre is definitely the innumerable men (MEN!!!!) who have haughtily informed me that if I didn’t know what it would take to parent, I shouldn’t have had a baby. Now, I realize there are single and stay-at-home dads out there, who spend 20-23 hours a day with their babies glommed onto them, reacting to the relentless stream of need need need need need with patience, compassion, humor and endless, boundless love. I do not think any of these dipshits Tweeting at me belong to that group, however, because if they were single or stay-at-home dads with high-need babies THEY WOULD NOT HAVE TIME to fuck with my shit on Twitter. So, mansplainers of the Internet, when you’ve regularly spent 2-5 hours walking and nursing and walk-nursing your baby until finally and mercifully she slips into slumber, COME TALK TO ME.

Anyone who actually reads the whole article can see that in my house, the middle finger isn’t a gesture of real hostility, but rather mock-hostility. Anyone who actually reads it can see quite clearly that I love my daughter ferociously, that I am endlessly and helplessly devoted to her, often to the detriment of all my other human relationships and definitely do the detriment of my work. I love my daughter so much that just looking at her–just thinking about her right now–makes me well up with tears, and (TMI alert) makes my milk let down.

My computer’s been broken for awhile (it’s fixed now!) so I haven’t been blogging at all, but I got a new one, so I should be back around here more again. The baby will be seven months old on Friday, and I’ll be incorporating the extent of the Baby Bird Backlash into her seven-month letter.

Wait, supply and what? Schuman confused

Libertarians, Rush references, Vitae

LOL psych. Literally everyone knows about how supply and demand “works.” I just don’t think that’s an excuse to treat people like shit. My latest on Vitae gets into it a bit. I’ve got one more piece coming out today (on Slate, stay tuned), and then I am ON VACATION from Internet publication for a few weeks. My computer broke and I’m hundreds of miles away from anywhere I can get it fixed or even fix it myself (no real WiFi out here), so I’m taking it as a sign from above that I need to take a breather and spend (even more) time with my kid. 

Bye!

  

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Six Months: Up, Up, UP!

Babby

Greetings, Small Human!
Today you’re six gigantic months old. And you already have reason to hate me, because this week I inadvertently made you famous when I talked about you on the Internet in an article that was very widely read.

I’ll be sorry when you start pulling your substantial weight around here.

Right now the ratio still tilts a little too far in favor of you sucking out my life force and then giving a little shrug (or, increasingly, a bite).

If you’ll recall the signoff from our last monthly update (which you can, because you can 100 percent understand language and read the Internet — or I assume you can, since you have a sixth sense about whenever I am working or doing anything time-sensitive), I wistfully declared that I wished you would stay five months old and adorable forever — but I also knew that the second I wrote that down, or said it aloud, something FUBAR would happen immediately.

And I’m proud to say that not 24 hours after I hit “publish,” you cut a morning walk short with an inconsolable, high-pitched wail, your Pain Cry, one I’ve only heard before when you got your shots at the pediatrician. (Also when I dropped my phone on your head that one time. I’m sorry, honey. Maybe if you allowed me to be anywhere but fused to you during naps I wouldn’t have to entertain myself reading Drunk Mom on my Kindle app.*)

At first I was panicked, because nothing was helping you — not nursing, not cuddling, not changing, nothing. Then I thought to myself…could it be? And I stuck a finger in your little maw, and sure enough, there were the tips of two giant chompers, poking their way through! You, my dear, have TEETH!!!!!!!

The good news is, you seem to be out of pain (which is a relief, because you only halfway tolerate your various teething accoutrements, and we had to drug you with baby Tylenol once, although you spit most of it out). The bad news is, you continue to gnaw on literally everything in sight: paper, cat toys, electric cords, the more dangerous the better, and you are grabby, so we can’t relax for a second — and, in the case of your father’s fingers and your mother’s boobs, everyone. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been jolted out of nursing reverie in stabbing pain, only to gather my wits quickly and go No no no Lini. Lini no bite Mama. No bities. Bities HURTS Mama. You usually react by giving me an insoucient look and biting me again, like my boob is an old-timey stogie and you’re a 75-year-old man at the Club. Now look here, see. Twenty-three skidoo, see. Great.

After being thoroughly shamed by the pediatrician and then the Internet, we have finally tightened the screws on Tummy Time, and although you are now officially “behind” on the “milestone” of rolling over (and I would be too if I had that much to roll over), you can do little babby pushups like a motherfucker. Every time you push up, I cheer you on by going “UP, UP, UUUUUUUUP!” And that seems to distract you for longer than the 27 seconds you used to tolerate your tummy time.


Your favorite torso-based activity is to watch your father and me do ebulliently-narrated yoga. (“Mama go UUUUUUUP! Mama go doooooooooown. Mama LUUUUUUUUUNGE!” I should 100% be a yoga teacher.) It is sometimes the only exercise I get besides lugging you around. Well, that and helping you do your new very favorite activity: JUMPIES. You love jumping. The fact that you cannot stand up by yourself is no obstacle. With only an enormous amount of help from whoever is holding you, you will jump jump jump jump the day away, bending your fat little legs and then kicking them hard, against what is only sometimes your father’s balls.

Until about two weeks ago, there were days you abjectly refused to go to sleep any other way than being strapped into the Ergo, facing me, and then making me loosen the straps and jiggle you down until I could jostle a boob into your face. “You want me to take her for a walk instead?” your Babcia would ask helpfully. “Can’t,” I’d answer, “She wants to sleep, walk and eat at the same time.” It was the only way to get you to nap for awhile. Then, with no prompting whatsoever, you started going apeshit every time I tried to load you into the Ergo facing me. Now you will ONLY walk in the Ergo facing out to the world, and all of the (over)stimulation it provides. Your father and I strap you in and take you for medium-length walks in the woods, holding your little hands as we go.


You love the lake here in upstate NY. It is one of the only places I have ever been able to just plop you on my lap and stare into space. You can sit on my lap looking out at the water, and the trees, and listen to the frogs and the fish jumping, and watch your papa go out in his kayak and come back, and you emit nothing more than an excited giggle and a satisfied little sigh now and then. You also love going in the lake. Your papa and I strip you all the way to your spectacular naked fatness, and dip you in up to the middle of your fat little belly, and you kick and squeal and kick and squeal. (The water where we dip you is about twelve inches deep, and we are both there to catch you, although nothing has gone wrong yet.)

You love being toted around in your little wagon by your Babcia, who has outfitted Her Majesty’s carriage with a pad, and all manner of toys. You haven’t so much as had to look in the general direction of your silly plebeian stroller in weeks. You are used to riding in style. Sometimes you have so much fun with your Babcia that it wears you out and you fall asleep.


You have continued in your trend of extreme pickiness. You have inherited all of your parents’ maximizer tendencies and none of our satisficer tendencies. Your friend Liz C., the maximiziest maximizer we know, would be very proud (keep searching for the platonic ideal of Couch, Liz!). For example, up until about two weeks ago you barely noticed the temperature. Now if you are ever so slightly too warm or too cold, you launch into a full-scale meltdown. USE YOUR WORDS, KID, I MEAN HOW HARD IS IT, GOD. For another example, you find things hilarious exactly once. Being lightly tossed up and down? THE FUNNIEST THING EVER — once. The “I’m gonna eat you” game? Funniest. Thing. Ever. Once. Mama building magnificent edifices out of blocks, and then Lini and creating mass block destruction? You laughed hysterically for forty minutes straight — ONCE. You are a tough fucking crowd, kid.

You love your big round bouncy ball. You can even sort of play “catch” with it. I’ll gently roll it to you and you’ll grasp it with your big fat feet and one hand (“Lini catch! Lini’s got the ball!!!”), and then you’ll inadvertently flail your arms or legs about and the ball will go careening back in my general direction. I’m signing you up for the 2050 women’s World Cup team now. (Or the mens, if you decide to transition genders. Up to you. Or you might go non-binary. That’s fine, too. Lord knows we dress you in every possible combination of anything.)


By far the most exciting advance you’ve had is that you’ve started (not mastered, but started) connecting your sleep cycles yourself.

ALL BY YOURSELF! I gave up on my No-Cry Sleep Solution stuff ages ago (if I had a parenting memoir it would be called Lazy Mom, but perhaps I would be too lazy to write it, although I am working like crazy on my other memoir, the one that is currently buying you the $150 worth of motherfucking diapers you go through a month, because you pee every five goddamned minutes!).

Anyway, I didn’t do anything to make you able to snuggle your Miś, contort your body until you’re 3/4 of the way onto your stomach but not on your stomach, and settle back into sleep. This was something you decided to do all by yourself. You still don’t do it the whole night through — and I naturally wake up between all of my sleep cycles to check on your breathing, and will probably do so until you’re in fourth grade — but you no longer require 95 nurses to get back to sleep. My boobs and my will to live thank you.

HOWEVER. We do not thank you unconditionally. You can still be admirably stubborn about going to sleep, even (and especially) when you are very, very tired. We’ve even altered the lyrics to “Amazing Grace,” your favorite “lullaby,” to reflect better the matter at hand:

O Lini Bean
You are so tired
Why won’t you go to sleep?
Fuckin’ A, fuckin’ A
You’ve been up all day
Why won’t you go to sleep?

I’m sure Jesus is very impressed.


  

Just yesterday, I got asked to be on a radio show (live) to discuss the article I wrote about you misbehaving in public. It was supposed to be after your bedtime. You instead exercised your sixth sense (“Is that asshole doing something? Is it important to her? Does it contribute to the career that pays for all my diapers? PARTY TIME, MOTHERFUCKERS!”) and stayed up to party…until the exact moment I connected with the radio host, at which point you puked all over your dad and then melted down, and there was nothing that valiant vomit-covered man could do to calm you down. I had to cut my radio interview about crying babies short — to deal with my crying baby. I’m sure the listeners thought it was staged, but I assure you, Gil Gross show drive-time audience, it was sincere.

I can’t believe you’re six months old already. I can’t believe you’re no longer the scary, squishy little Walter Mathau that was wrested from my pelvis on that frigid, dark night in that tall, scary hospital. The weather is warm. You’re sitting and wiggling and wanting to stand and wanting to jump, and laughing and playing and interacting and wreaking havoc with those two big-ass teeth. You are a big, giant, heavy, fat bundle of feelings and curiosity and need and delight, and I love you so much.


Your non-drunk mom,

Mama

*Speaking of Drunk Mom. I’m about halfway through it right now, and I realize I should be aghast at how the author puts her baby in grave danger every day while she gets blackout shitfaced and they’re alone together, but all I can concentrate on is how fucking easy her baby is. They go to coffee shops and she stealth-sips her sparking wine while he just sits there in his stroller, or naps!! He goes to bed at night and doesn’t wake up 95 times to snuggle or nurse, which allows her to get blotto after sundown! She leaves on a MULTI DAY TRIP and he doesn’t even put up a fuss. (I’ve been away from my baby, like away-away across town, for a total of ten fucking hours since she was born. TEN HOURS. And NOT BY CHOICE.) He basically just sits there and fucking chills 24/7. My heart aches for Jowita Bydlowska’s painful relapse into alcoholism (from which she emerged when the kid was one), but what aches even more is my jealous green eyes, for the easy-ass, low-need, non-demanding baby she ignored to get hammered.