Thoughts on raising a son on International Women’s Day

Oh, hey guys. I’m glad I didn’t recommit to regular blogging during my last post, because that obviously didn’t happen. I would say that I’ve been super busy, but I’ve talked about how much I hate that as an excuse, and also lots of really busy, badass people (for example my girl Melissa) find time to post almost daily. It’s just not a thing I can (or am willing to make the effort to) do.

Before I get into the real topic of the day, here’s a quick recap of what’s been going on at the old TLMB household over the past few weeks:

About a half hour after I published my last post, my dad came over (he lives across the street) and got the phone call while he was sitting at my kitchen table that his dad had died. My grandpa had been in hospice for about a year, and in a nursing home for almost 18 months, so while it’s hard to say goodbye, it was a relief to us all that he wasn’t suffering anymore. Ever since my grandma died last year, he had been really going downhill. I will always miss them, and always be grateful to have had them in my life.

We are, indeed, moving ahead with our plans to get a little taste of the farm life: We’re taking beekeeping classes and have ordered bees, we visited some goats over the weekend (and got lost in Amish country, with a carsick and subsequently nearly naked toddler, on the ride home) and will be picking them up sometime in the next few weeks, and I’m prepping to pick up a half dozen baby chicks in the next couple weeks. It’s overwhelming how much there is to learn, and I’m a little terrified, but we decided that the only way to tackle our goals is to jump in with both feet. So stay tuned for more on that. (I’m even thinking about closing the books on this blog/starting up a new one to sporadically document this new chapter, because why not start yet another blog I’ll inevitably neglect?)

I’ve also been keeping up with freelancing and have made a handful of sales on Etsy. End of update.

Raising a feminist son: Reflecting on International Women’s Day

What I meant to talk about today is what I wish for my son, and what I hope to instill in him, as I reflect on International Women’s Day. Feminism is no less important to me because I have a son rather than a daughter, because it’s about equality. So here’s a list of hopes I have for my son as he grows, in the spirit of International Women’s Day:

I want my son to be someone who treats women as equals and also who doesn’t suffer or inflict the consequences of toxic masculinity.

I want him to be able to express the full range of human emotions without feeling like he has to censor anything that might be considered effeminate.

I want him to understand that compassion and sensitivity aren’t  the sole purview of women.

While yes, there seem to be some seemingly innate differences between girls and boys (whether because they’re truly in many kids’ individual natures or because they’re reinforced despite our best efforts to avoid gender stereotypes), I don’t want my son to feel like he can’t do something because it’s “girl stuff” or to judge anything “girly” as less than. He can like pink. He can nurture his baby doll. He can smash trucks together. He can cry when he falls down and be comforted. He can be afraid of snakes. He can dance.  He can get muddy.

I want my son to understand that sexuality — his and anyone else’s — is not something shameful, nor is gender identity. I don’t want him to ever be afraid to tell me who he is, gay, straight, male, female, questioning or non-conforming. I want him to grow up knowing that I would be equally proud to be his mom in any of those scenarios, and eager to support him and learn what I do not know in order to do so.

I want him to understand consent. I want him to know that respect and basic human decency don’t “entitle” him to anything as a man, and that “friendzone” is not a thing.

Just as I would want a daughter to have the full range of career options open to her, I don’t want my son to feel discouraged from being a preschool teacher or a nurse, if that’s what he wants to do.

I want him to understand his privilege and use it to help uplift others.

I didn’t expect this post to come full circle, but I had to eulogize both my grandmother when she died, and my grandfather just last week, so I’ve done a lot of reflecting on their lives, and it’s vividly apparent how inequality shaped their lives and their relationships.

They were lovely people with a lot of amazing qualities. But my grandma died with a lot of regrets and resentment about how her life had gone. As I cleaned out their things, I came across ample evidence that she was frustrated and unfulfilled in her role as a housewife. My grandparents’ marriage almost never seemed happy to me, and my grandfather’s role as the “man of the house” certainly was to blame for much of it. He was demanding, domineering, and disdainful of anything that seemed like weakness. My father suffered under this environment, and I grew up watching my brother endure a lot of the same  ridicule. Of course, their unhappiness is a complicated subject, and was their responsibility just as much as it was a product of the patriarchy, but looking back I can’t help but wonder how different it could have been had they seen each other as equals.

So… one day late, now, because The Toddler took an hour to go to bed last night and I just didn’t have it in me to finish this thought, I hope I can instill the importance of equality in my son as he grows up. Happy (belated) International Women’s Day, everyone.

 

Thoughts on raising a son on International Women’s Day

Vitality and Mortality

This week started off rough and took a nosedive from there.

My sweet Granny, the one whose house I now live in and whose worldly possessions are now scattered, dusty, around me with price tags as I sit in her dark garage awaiting the customers who won’t come on this rainy Saturday morning, died on Wednesday afternoon.

I knew this was coming. She has been sick for so long and I have already said goodbye so many times.

Four days before Christmas I spent the day at her side in the ICU, enormously pregnant and watching her try to flip invisible coins and search her covers for clothespins that weren’t there, hallucinating because her heart was failing and not pumping enough oxygen to her brain.

A few weeks ago she was in the hospital again, with an infection. She lay in her hospital bed as small and fragile as a baby, waking up briefly to be fed an ice chip and to tell me the field was on fire. Her fingers and nose were purple. I kissed her on the forehead as I left, thought it again might be time.

She came back to the nursing home. The last time I saw her, she was upright in her wheelchair, sitting next to my grandfather, both of them lucid, both of them smiling as The Baby cooed and laughed stomped from my lap.

The Baby’s energy always seemed to revitalize them. I felt lucky to see them both awake and talking, a rare occurrence since they were both assigned hospice care. I remember saying, “See you soon,” my usual optimistic attempt at a casual goodbye, but I felt confident I meant it that time. They seemed well.

But it was the last time I saw her.

Her death and the parallel clearing out of her possessions bitterly punctuate the impermanence of things that seem steadfast. She was always there for me.  Until she wasn’t.

We couldn’t cancel the garage sale, and the busyness of the week kept me from having to spend too much time feeling this loss. But in the quiet minutes between greeting customers and tickling the baby, her absence is palpable.

The death of an old woman is the natural order, not a tragedy. As hard as we try to forget this fact, we will all die someday.

The best I can do to honor her memory is just to remember her. How she taught me to bake. How she led me by the hand through the fields that are now my backyard and named the trees and birds and flowers: Jack-in-the-pulpit, May apple, chickadee. How she’d rock me to sleep on the wooden porch swing while the tree frogs chirped.

I got out the porch swing yesterday and hung it back up. Rocked The Baby to sleep.

A sweetness sidled up next to the deep ache in my heart. She is mostly gone, but not completely.

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Granny's handkerchief collection
Vitality and Mortality