Saturday, February 15, 2014

She burns so brightly

Did I mention that I have this amazing kid? 

She is all energy and boldness.  Since she was born, we have told her stories of how she is the stuff of stars.  As she grows more into who she is becoming, I am starting to believe our bedtime myths.

She burns so brightly. 

Like a fierce fire.

Yes, she is a Sagittarius and her hair is orange and wild.  It is not just orange straight hair that falls in flimsy, limp lines over her head.  It is this sticky mass of unruly, copper strands pointing ever to the ceiling. 

Her whole little being breathes like a dragon’s mouth.  She hates to have on many clothes.  When I am reaching for a sweatshirt and skullcap to warm my frozen bones, she is tearing off her hoodie and running barefoot over the cold wood floors of our house.

She is willful and determined.  She is thoughtful and athletic beyond measure.  She loves to wrestle and dance and spin.  She also digs books with this kind of intensity that makes me glad and terrified all at once. 

I sit dreading the day when she will be too heavy to climb to the top of my feet and hang in her koala bear hugging way high in the air as far as I can extend my legs.

She is defiant.  I think her name might mean defiance.  Defiant like kid looks ma in the face when she tells you not to sit your raw bottom on the couch pillows, and, instead of listening, kid spreads her butt cheeks and grinds them into said couch pillows.  

But, maybe defiance and resistance are just regular elements of toddlerhood? 

And, if not, I know that someday her willful spirit will translate into useful power. Right now her willful ways drive me wild, but I dream of the day when she uses her stubborn heart and hardcore determination to rally for what she knows is right when faced with injustice and/or the conditions of human made suffering.  Her ferocity will be a kind and strong tool in her metallic and wide belt. 

She is made of stardust after all. 

She burns the orange of sun-star leaving scorch marks all over my chest.  One day the scars caused by her fire might fade to lovely tattoos—remnants of raw determination and the bold heart of childhood fashioned securely on my skin and over the soft tissue of my brain.  For now, I meet her willful heart in a spirit of peace.  And, mostly, I fail.  But, she is leaving me with desire to memorize her ways and maybe even use them in my own life.

Active stardust.  Like sparks.  Like deep embers.  Like knowing that my bright light righteousness will get me what I want now.   

Sunday, February 2, 2014

not you

It is funny and relevant how much being a parent brings to the surface my personal insecurities while simultaneously triggering the need to be reflective about the person I am becoming.

Let me make sure to be clear that I believe we are always becoming.  I do not believe in ultimate enlightenment or reaching your highest potential.  See, I see us all as flawed and failing.  Simultaneously, I see us as working towards perfection and being better and becoming fuller more robust and whole beings.  I see humans as living in a constant state of flux.  We may think we have one aspect of ourselves all figured out and then that bad or hard little thing may come bite us right on the bottom.

Our demons bare razor teeth even when we think them defeated.  Our angels leave our sides and then come pirouetting back to us in soft pink tutus and glossy drips of rain. 

I believe that without the junk and the struggles, we would be shallow creatures floating just above boring.

And this long introduction gets me to the place where I tell my few, dedicated readers that I am an insecure, constantly wrestling with demons, falling and then rising again parent. 

Over the nearly last year, I have been in a battle with my own dueling wills (and my dear little willa).  I have a hard time with the “not you” syndrome that daily delivers resistance and words of denial from my child’s mouth to my fragile, never-to-be-enlightened ears. 

I suck at being consistently denied by my daughter, even though her brain is very new and my brain is older and supposedly more mature.

Here’s the short version of what has been up.  Since March or February of 2013, Willa has been incredibly clingy with her biological mother, kk.  She has gone through severe phases of denying me and demanding her other mother.  Sometimes I can easily blow off her denials and thrive in empathic concern with her, and at other times, I take her denials and refusals so personally that I want to flee to a dirty motel in the desert and drink copious amounts of bourbon while listening to Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash and reading my trashy lesbian romance novels until I pass out in the sand and the stars take me away to oblivion. 

Ya, ya.  A little dramatic. 

But, I have had these moments when I totally get how someone flees his or her family.  If I did not have my own insecurities, this shit would never boil up into all of this over-the-top fatalistic thinking.  But, being a non-bio parent (with no legal rights or recognition...*see below) and parenting with a bio parent who has very real biological connectivity to the other human in our house, produces some deeply difficult moments. 

Up until last month, kk breast-fed Willa.  I am glad that they had this beautiful time of mother and child bonding.  I mean it.  However, this form of bonding is incredibly exclusive, and I do think it added to the development of willa’s fierce resistance to me being able to be more of a partner in parenting.  In addition, as a queer who lives in a state that does not recognize me as a legal parent (*after flying under the radar and patiently persisting for over two.five years, I was able to legally adopt Willa, but that long journey is a large piece of the emotional damage I am writing about in this post.  I am happy to share privately with folks what went on with us finessing a legal adoption in a private message), I have experienced layers of quiet and internalized trauma that I am only just recognizing as having psychological and physical ramifications.  Homophobia and heterosexism ravage real harm on people. I have known this, and I get this now more than I ever did before because I have felt the harm to my psyche in these last few years in real concrete ways.

I have very huge historical experiences of harsh homophobia coming from some of the people closest to me in my life and yet now in reflecting on the inequity perpetrated by the state (the state that I am usually so ready to say fuck you to), I am realizing the inter-personal devastation that inequity may trigger. 

This parenting thing really raises this shit up to the surface. 

Through all of this, “Not you, mama nonnie, not you,”  kk has asked me to read parenting articles and parenting books and parenting drivel and I have resisted her insistent requests.  I have resisted because I am stubborn and I do not relate to most parenting writing out there.  I am not a bio-dad or an adoptive straight father.  I am not a straight dude or straight step-parent.  I was not an adoptive, non-bio parent until very recently.  [And, I hold fast to the idea that I never should have had to go through an adoption process to be legally recognized as willa’s second parent.] 

I am this floater.  I am an interloper.  I am a third wheel.  I am a parent defining my own path as I go along.  I did not come into this after reaching consensus with my beloved for jointly adopting a kid through an agency/organization (though, that would be an amazing and perfectly workable method for getting to parenting—though in this ass backwards state only one of us could adopt a kid.  Same dilemma different scenario).

I came into this after much study, deliberation, thought, reflection, conversation, and seeking with my beloved.  We decided to have K work to conceive a kid.  I aided throughout.  I joke that my spit mingled with the sperm, and willa has my stubborn streak to prove it.  I have been with willa always, from the get go.  My name should have been on her birth certificate from the day she came tumbling out onto our sheets.

I do not need the state to recognize me, but when the words out of my daughter’s mouth reflect the rhetoric of state policies and laws (not you, not you, not you), the damage is amplified in a turn of the screw, a shove of the blade, a kick to the shin. 

Yes, Willa’s kick to my shin as she tells me to get away from her echoes a little more loudly in my head cause the state and some very prominent, vocal leaders are saying the same thing while kicking my shins with hateful rhetoric.

And, yes, things are changing.  In addition, I am surrounded by fierce love.  I am loved in this journey beyond measure by so many good, strong people.  And the state is not meant to love anyone or anything.  It is a beast among beasts hungry for control.  I get all of that.  However, I have been trying to sort out why, some of the time, I react so badly to Willa’s normal (according to so many parenting sources) toddler rejection behavior.  And, the more I search, the more I directly relate my reactions to the layers of internalized homophobia and insecurities that ride side car to all of my own internalized oppression. 

I know I am not less than.  I know I am totally capable of co-parenting well, but institutional hate and oppression are strong forces and these forces can impale people with a distinct set of hurts that in turn keep us, at times, wallowing in dangerous cycles of sadness, nihilism, and violence.   Of course, I also am resilient and contrary.  I am willing and able to rise above these circumstances.   But, all of this has given me pause and the need to reflect and reframe in order to survive these times.

All of my sadness at the “not you, mamas” coming from my daughter’s mouth is not just some immature reaction to her toddler self.  I think my sadness is directly connected to the line of hate from individuals and the state that lead to excluding whole groups of people from participating in social structures that do—whether I want them to or not—add meaning and recognition to our lives.  And, you all have heard me rant against marriage and talk long and hard about love being the goal, not state methods leading to more social control.  But god dammit when it comes to this kid, when it comes to thinking through the fact that the state could have impeded on my rights to continue to parent should my partner have died or decided she was done with me, then I get all this deep, weird residue that leads to me being so reactionary to my daughter’s resistance. 

Strange and hard stuff. 
And now to overcoming it. 

I can do that.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A crusty heart

I’ve been a parent for 3 years and a couple of months.  I have no sage advice.  I am far from an expert. 

I struggle everyday in my parenting.

Some small thing becomes large.  Some large thing takes a backseat to an even  larger dilemma.  There is always junk to deal with—simple junk and complex junk. There are passing moments of happiness and joy and surreal delight.  And, then there is more junk.  The junk passes too. 

It fizzles to ash.
Sometimes it rises.
And then again.

Being totally responsible for a little being is heavy work and being an older parent has added so many layers to this journey.  Helpful layers and not-so-helpful layers.

K and I are older parents.  As I have reflected on in the past, we waited and then persisted through trials a long time to get to willa.

On the other end of the spectrum, my mother and father had me when they were really, really young.  My ma was 19 when I was born and my dad was 21.  They are young parents and grandparents. 

That youngness added struggles to their parenting that are different than my struggles.  They lacked in maturity and experience, but they were overflowing with energy and creativity and a kind of naiveté that made their mistakes more acceptable. 

Whereas, K and I have had a lot of experiences and are pretty darn mature (though I still get busted about every 6 months for talking about bodily functions at a dinner party).  We also get tired more readily and I am sometimes ultra stuck in my habits and ways.

Having more experience is not always a plus.  My layers of junk and roughage are much thicker, for the most part, than some younger parent’s roughage might be (in some senses simply because there is less deep shit lived through for many younger people).  At 37, I have witnessed at least 10,000 more images and stories of human suffering and direct experiences of discrimination, injustice, and grief than many 19 year olds have seen.  My ma had a hard growing up, but in her 19 year old life she still had remnants of innocence and freshness that surpass my dense, self imposed defenses. 

All in all, I have a crusty heart.

A heart that has witnessed and directly experienced profound sadness and trauma. 

Of course, and sadly and unfortunately and wrongly, there are millions of younger people in america who have lived through insane trauma over and over again in their short lives.  I do not intend to minimize or erase these brutal facts.  Poverty and incest and racism and sexism and misogyny and living in a police state and cycles of thick family violence and homo and trans phobia and heterosexism and other human made tragedies have left, in both singular and intersectional ways, devastating impacts on too many young people’s lives. 

With that being said, I have been thinking a lot about being an older parent and my personal tendency to have a difficult time letting go of junk, sadness, and suffering and not always working through primary and secondary trauma all that well.
So, what this leads me to realize is that I am not the most present parent.  I withdraw into a self-protective shell even in my safest place—my home surrounded by family.  As I stated at the beginning of this post, I have no sage advice about parenting, just this personal reflection on how I know I am failing, at times, at being present because of not processing appropriately or effectively the sadness that surrounds me. 

And, maybe if we had had a kid back when we were younger, I would not be holding so much grief.  Or, maybe I would have it still.  Maybe age has nothing to do with it.  Or, maybe it has everything to do with it. 

I also have been obsessing with my own memories of witnessing my mother grow up as she parented.  See, I remember when my mom turned 30.  I was 11 and I thought she was so very, very old and that she would be dying in the near future due to her ancient status.  Then, I remember when she turned 40; I was 21 and I met K just two short years later.  At 40 my mother’s children were 21, 19, and 16.  At 40 my child will be 5 (and if we happen to have another kid soon that child will be 1 or 0).  I was an adult—18 years old—when my mom turned the age I am today, 37. 

Even if there is no profound anything connected to these fleeting images and thoughts, the thoughts still come and the emotions connected to my complete ability to disconnect still emerge.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

in this body honesty

Willa is three and one month.  And, next month kk and I hit 14 years of togetherness.

Yes, 14 years. 

A long time.

A good long time.

Monday night it was -14 (without wind chill) here in Michigan and after the little went to sleep, k joined me in a steaming bath.  We talked long and hard.  I watched her body in the yellow gold of a shimmering candle and thanked the stars for this life.  Our life.  And the privilege I partake in everyday—like hot water on a frigid, winter night.  The life of leisure and luxury.  The everlasting spoils and stains of colonialism and all of its residual negative impact sifting over my life in a bath in Michigan in the aftermath of a blizzard.  Sick in my heart at the thought of my access to leisure when other people do not have access to leisure because of human made separations and conditions and yet marveling at the love literally draped over my body. 

I marveled at the beloved body before me and the changes I have watched cascade over her bones.   The shifting of skin.  The ebb and flow of curves.  The lines that mark the place where our child grew lungs, eyelids, soft bones and cartilage.  The ever-growing number of white threads of hair weaving their unruly way through her still mostly orange head. 

I marveled at the friendship I have with my life partner.

I marveled at our ability to talk deeply about things that matter. 

We determined on that cold bath tub night that honesty seems to be the common attribute that we seek most in our friendships and in people in general.  Honesty can mean so many things.  Honesty holds transparency and authenticity and rawness and realness all in the palm of her wide hands. 

I think about the honesty I try to share with others, the honesty I seek from others and then the honesty I seek in and with myself and the hardest form of it has been me being honest with me about how I feel about my very own body.  This vessel.  And, it is not all about me lying to my own self or anything like that.  It is trying to come to a place where I can reflect back on this journey to becoming comfortable with self and being okay with it and being okay with every part of me.

Having a kid has made me recognize my way too easy propensity for verbally articulating body image issues—cause I refuse to allow it to happen in front of her.  And, if I love honesty then I have to be honest with me.  I have to dig in deep and look at all of the history that makes me.  This includes the hard parts.  This includes holding fast to being okay with my body even when I am still at nearly 38 years old settling into my body—still coming to terms with these curves and hips and ass and breasts—even though they are all, even after all of these years, so foreign to who I see myself becoming. 

Oh, yes.  This is all about gender identity.  As a parent, I never realized how in my face gender expression (which I have thought deeply about—and actively performed—for the better part of my life) would be.  I’ve written about it here a lot before.  And, now I am thinking and living through it all so much more forcefully in the mama context. 

willa and her mama nonnie at the golden gate bridge
I do claim my mama identity.  It is not something I shy away from.  I am good with it.  As a butch identified person who walks through this life with hips and breasts (and my soft cheeks, as one person once told me) constructing the “womanly” elements that keep me from always being identified by others as a man, I adore and simultaneously struggle with my gender non-conforming self.  And, when I am totally honest, it is so very difficult living in a place where there are not very many other people like me…Ultra-butch and parenting a young child with a cis woman partner who presents as femme.  There is no doubt that k is Willa’s mama.  There is doubt from bystanders and the public and maybe even friends and even my own self that I am Willa’s mama (more on all of this later down the road).

And, it is hard for me to just sometimes be—be quiet and peaceful and calm and honest with all of me and know that in the end while all of this matters.  It really does not.  What matters is the loving that makes up our lives.  What matters is the ability to be patient, persistent, honest and open hearted with my daughter even when it I feel totally disconnected.  In the end, all hands will be pointed at the honesty and the transparency and the rawness that helped, in this waking life, perpetually transform and construct our paths.