April 02, 2013

On our way to preschool, I hear her pipe up from the backseat.  Why is the car wet on the outside?  Did it rain?

No, I tell her.  The earth and the air were different temperatures and it caused the water droplets in the air to condense.

She’s quiet for a moment, then rejects my explanation.  No, she says.  It was maybe just magic.

Then she asks me if she can have a dragon?  Please?  One of her very own?

No, I tell her.  Dragons aren’t real.

She insists that they are and I give up.  Okay, I say, if you can find a dragon and catch it, we can keep it.

She will feed it fish stew, she says.  Like the dragon in her book.  And tangerines like Elmer Elevator.

And then we’re talking about chickens and why they don’t talk.  And then we’re talking about what it means to “rewind” something.  And then we’re talking about Grandpa and how he lets her eat her very own ice cream.  And then we’re talking about where Easter eggs come from, and why she’s never seen a fairy, and how rainbows happen, and where crayons are manufactured, and whether or not her radish at school will have sprouted yet.

And I’m driving along, answering three hundred questions a minute, listening to the amazing concoctions of this little mind, thinking about how the whole world seems maybe just magic to her.

I kind of understand because she seems maybe just magic to me.

** Charlotte is three years and eight months old.  Evie is (almost) five months old.

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March 25, 2013

Every year our yard is taken over by thousands upon thousands of ladybugs, but before they come around we deal with thousands upon thousands of aphids.  Based on this picture, I think it’s safe to say we’re ready for the ladybugs!

After sitting on the idea for two years, I finally organized a small home-education community with a few other parents in the area.  Our eighth gathering was last week, but it was our first attempt at structure.  I hosted it. It’s going to take a few months for us to get the hang of this, but both of my kids were conked out within ten minutes of everyone leaving the house.  In that respect, I will always consider it a raging success.

Evelyn is turning out to be quite the thumb-sucker.  She even tries to sneak her thumb in when she’s nursing!  But every time I try to take a picture of it, she pulls her thumb out and stares at me curiously.  Like this.

Tandem-wearing is difficult, but I’m getting better at it.

There are still snails that get along faster than I do, though.

At least half of my photographs of Evelyn are of her poking out of one carrier or another.  So.  Cute.

Something that I really struggled with for the first three months postpartum was keeping Charlotte entertained and challenged while I nursed the baby or rested.

For us, the answer turned out to be art.  A few small bowls of collage supplies, a tube of glue, and a few pieces of paper can buy a solid hour of Charlotte’s interest.  And even though we’re now out of the zombie momma phase of newborn-ness, the constant turn to art has stuck around these parts.


** Charlotte is three years and eight months old.  Evie is four and a half months old.

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Around the time that Evelyn was born, Charlotte became suddenly and inexplicably interested in families.  She became curious about the dynamics of birth and adoption and how families change when they grow.  She began to ask why some friends’ parents lived in different houses.  Most notably, and I suspect that this had something to do with what the stork brought to our home, she started to notice sibling relationships.

Before I knew it, she was asking strangers in the grocery store about their families.  How many parents do they have?  Do they ever play with their cousins?  Do they know that she’s going to adopt a baby brother?  HEY!  DO THEY HAVE ANY BROTHERS OR SISTERS?

Oh?  They do?  Well that’s cool.  Did their momma give birth to their brother too?  Oh?  She did?  Huh.  Guess what?  HER momma gave birth to HER sister!  WHAT A COINKYDINK!

One morning, Charlotte stopped everything she was doing and turned to me.  “Momma,” she said, “my friend R has a Momma AND a Mommy.”

“Yes, she does,” I said.

“Z and Z have a Momma and a Mommy too,” she continued.

“Yes, they do,” I said.

“Why do R and Z and Z have two mommas?” she asked.

“Well,” I told her, “every family is different, sweetie.  In our family there is a momma and a daddy, but R and Z and Z’s families have two mommas and no daddy.”

She thought about this for a moment.  “Okay,” she said finally.  “Maybe after lunch, we can go to the store and buy a second momma.  I think I should have two mommas too.”

It was the most darling moment in the world and I wish I could have bottled up her innocence to keep with me forever.

At any rate, I took advantage of the rather golden opportunity to introduce Charlotte to homosexuality.  She really didn’t seem to give a rat’s ass, to be honest.  If you had asked me three months ago how the conversation went down, I would have said that it all went in one of Charlotte’s ears and out the other.

But I would have been wrong, because over the last two weeks Charlotte’s interest in particular topic has been reignited.  She has dozens of questions.  How did these mothers make babies if they don’t have a penis?  Do some women have penises?  Do her friends feel sad because they don’t have fathers?  Do some kids have two dads and no moms?  And so on.

I have been answering her questions as patiently and honestly as possible – and although there are clearly topics she is too young to grasp at play, overall it’s been going well.

Or at least it was going well until a couple days ago when Charlotte started running through her much-practiced, oft-repeated list of questions while we were in line at the market.

“Momma, when will I be grown-up?” she asked.

“In like fifteen years,” I told her.

“When I’m grown-up,” she continued, “do I get married?”

“You can if you want to, but you don’t have to,” I said.

“Oh.  Okay.  And do I marry a boy or a girl?” she asked.

I told her the truth, just like I’ve told her a million times over.  “Charlotte,” I said, “if you decide that you want to be in a relationship with someone, all that matters is that they make you happy and they treat you well.  You can marry anybody you want – a boy or a girl.  What matters is that you love them, that they treat you well, and that you make each other happy.”

And then there was a quiet scoff from the person behind us in line and a muttering under their breath.  I absolutely refuse to put into writing what they said.

To the best of my knowledge, Charlotte did not hear them.  Or perhaps their statement made no sense to her and so she just wrote it off as another great mystery of the adult world, soon to be forgotten.

But the days have passed and I have pondered over this and for the first time in my life I have started to realize just how much prejudice there is in this world.  What that woman said in the market made my heart ache; how could she write off an entire community of people simply because her sexual orientation differs from theirs?  How could she expose a child to such hateful speech?  And how difficult it must be to hear words like that spoken about you if you were homosexual, or about your child or someone else you know if they were?  What is the right response to someone so ignorant?

Then it turned into a moment of what can only be described as profound sadness as it dawned on me how many times I’ve done THE EXACT SAME THING under different circumstances.  How many times have I said hateful or discriminatory things without realizing it?  How many times have I said hateful or discriminatory things and not cared?  How hurtful are those things to other people who hear them?  How sad does it make those people to hear these words spoken in the presence of their children?  And suddenly I was seized by a deep, powerful desire to right this, to fix this, to be a better person.  For Charlotte.  For Evelyn.  For the people they may one day love.  For the children they may one day raise.  For every child everywhere who deserves a more accepting world.

They say that a baby changes everything.

I guess I never expected that a three-year-old would change even more.

** Charlotte is three years and eight months old.  Evie is four and a half months old.

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Charlotte: Sing me the story of Grandpa and the bear and the bee!

Me: Once upon a time, Grandpa and Aunt R and I all went backpacking on the High Sierra Trail – and while we were on the trail, I saw a bee!


Me: I sure was!  I’m allergic to bees so I was very scared when I saw one, which is silly, isn’t it?

Charlotte: Yes, because bees are SO LITTLE!  They do not hurt!

Me: They sure are little!  And on the trail, Grandpa told me not to panic, but did I listen?


Me::  No I did not!  I was silly and I started running.  And I ran and I ran and I ran as fast as I possibly could with a pack on my back.  And the bee buzzed along after me.

Charlotte: And Grandpa said GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW, LITTLE MISSY!

Me:  He sure did.  But I didn’t listen and I ran around a bend and BOOM!, I almost ran smack into a bear.

Charlotte: And you, and you backed away slowly.  And Grandpa scared off the bear with rocks!

Me: That’s exactly what happened.  The bear was just tearing bark off a tree looking for bugs to eat so Grandpa threw some sticks at its rump and it walked away.  And after that, I learned to always listen to Grandpa on the trail.  And I learned to never make hasty decisions because I could have put myself into a dangerous situation.

- - -

Charlotte: Sing me the story of Grandpa and the bear and the bee!

Donald: Everybody went hiking and Momma saw a bee.  And Momma ran around like a lunatic when she saw the bee.

Charlotte:: (uncontrollable peals of laughter)

Donald: (capitalizing on this) And Momma just kept running around like a lunatic because Momma is a lunatic and when lunatics run around they run around like lunatics.  So Momma ran around like a lunatic.  Grandpa said STOP!, but Momma kept on running around like a lunatic.  Silly lunatic running around like a lunatic!  Silly Momma!

Charlotte: Then she saw, she saw the bear!

Donald: And Grandpa scared it off, the end.

Charlotte: THE END!  Momma was a lunatic!  THE END!

** Charlotte is three years and (almost) eight months old, but this happened quite awhile ago and I can’t exactly remember when.  Evie is four and a half months old.

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We’re snuggled together in the bed, the three of us, while Donald gets ready for work.  Evelyn is to my front, her bare legs pressed against my belly, her nose nuzzled between my breasts, her eyes shut and her breathing rhythmic.  Charlotte and I are back-to-back.  She is still in the princess dress she insisted upon wearing to bed, the blanket kicked down, her feet curled up beneath her, muttering in her sleep as the morning creeps into the bedroom.

In a few minutes, the sunlight will pour in.  The birds will sing in the shrub beside the window.  The night’s shadows will be chased across the floor, changing before our very eyes.

Charlotte will point to them as they flee.  That one looks like a hawk, Momma.  And that one looks like two giants hugging.

And when they are gone, my girls will want to nurse.  Both of them.  Evelyn will root around and latch, never opening her eyes, never making a sound, and her body will relax into a deep sleep as she suckles.  Charlotte will paw at me.  “I want milk, Momma,” she’ll say.  “Can I please have some milk?”

Sometimes she pops up behind me and asks if she can lean over my side and nurse.  Most of the time she waits for Evelyn to pop off, then asks if I can turn over and nurse her.

I want to say yes.  I believe in my heart of hearts that giving Charlotte the ability to wean on her own timetable is the best choice for her.  I have battled through mastitis, through biting, through plugged ducts, through the grief after a miscarriage and the tender nipples of pregnancy and postpartum cramping to this end.  For years, I have said over and over again that I want Charlotte to wean herself when she’s ready.

But increasingly I find myself saying no.

- - -

There is a part of me that feels guilty about this.  Every morning my eyes flutter open a few minutes before either of my daughters awakens.  I listen to the birdsongs outside, watch the sunlight sneak into the room, and think about this.

The breastfeeding problem.

I am embarrassed to admit it, but the truth is that I have not enjoyed tandem nursing as much as I expected to.  There have been many emotions relative to tandem nursing.  I have yearned for the experience of my babies drifting to sleep hand-in-hand at my breasts.  I have mourned when I thought I might have to relinquish that dream.  I have felt great pride at accomplishing breastfeeding two children simultaneously.

But, in all honesty, I have not enjoyed it.  I enjoyed the DREAM of what tandem nursing would look like and I enjoy the memories afterwards of my children draped across my body suckling and sleeping together.  Unfortunately, the reality is another beast entirely.

This has lead to a great deal of inner turmoil, if you will.  I feel that I owe self-weaning to my daughter.  I believe in all that mumbo-jumbo nonsense about full-term breastfeeding being an empowering gift and yadda yadda yadda.  But I also believe that breastfeeding should only take place as long as both parties in the relationship are content with the relationship – and, frankly, I started to gradually lose patience with nursing an older child after it became painful.

A year and a half I’ve been threatening to wean Charlotte, for all manner of reasons.

So in those quiet moments of the morning, I think about this.  I weigh the options in my mind while I watch Charlotte sleep and I find myself thinking: it is time.  We are done.  This may not be the choice that I thought I wanted.  This may not be the ideal choice for my daughter.  But Charlotte is not the only person in our family.  It pains me to admit this, but I am a better mother on the days when she does not nurse – more patient, more nurturing, more capable of dealing with tantrums and mishaps. This seems to be the right decision for my family.

And, oddly, unexpectedly, every morning when I reach that point in the thought train, I feel at peace.

It is time.  This is right.  We are weaning.

** Charlotte is three years and (almost) eight months old.  Evie is four months old.

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