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.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

this butchmama is back

Been on a big, long break from this here blog.  But, kk tells me I have to be writing.  And, she is totally right.

I would change the name of this blog and call it something like butchmama or GQmama or i can be your daddy or out of place.  Or, something about being butch and gender queer and a mama in a place where there are not too many other people like me.


k is working on trying to get knocked up again and so the title still suffices.  


Really, I need somewhere to reflect on the strange little things that come up because of who I am in the world as a parent, a butch, a queer, a gender non-conforming person, a mama, a non-bio mama, a step-in daddy, and the list goes on.

Things keep surfacing.  From kiddos: Situations.  Sentences.  Questions.  All bubble up from the mouth of my baby and the mouths of the kids around her.  Things keep surfacing.  From me: personal insecurities, doubts, insights, my loud voice.

So, I am trying to be back on this.  If anyone out there is still reading (or for new readers), I need supportive inter-web community.  I have good real life community here, but a big chunk is missing cause most of the folks I know with kids are straight and not-gender queer and while they are not narrow, it is not the same as being able to reflect with someone on how he/she/ze deals with their kid pining for a daddy and mamanonnie coming to the rescue by being the daddy.  I am will's daddy and/or mama.  I'll be what she needs me to be.  We've been constructing this all along.  We are constantly building our family and working to be present with one another in our needs-- both personal and familial.


To building family and to being our authentic selves...To writing more in 2014.