Pregnancy Week 19: A growing, shrinking family

Today concludes Week 19 of my pregnancy, and may I say, Good Riddance.

Pregnancy-wise, things are going blessedly well. According to the creative souls who come up with these things, Baby #2 is the size of: A zucchini (I’m assuming your standard supermarket zucchini and not the neighbor’s garden variety from which you could carve out a canoe), a Gameboy, a hotdog, or a pair of sunglasses. Hmm… OK. In real terms that means it is about 6 inches long and 8.5 ounces.

My symptoms haven’t changed much; the heartburn remains a near-constant but still tolerable presence, and I have found myself getting winded more quickly when I climb stairs, but otherwise I’m feeling pretty good. This upcoming week we’ll have our anatomy scan, and the following week is my next appointment with my midwife, during which I will likely plead for heartburn relief of some kind.

(Incidentally, I saw a video on Instagram or somewhere from a mom explaining that pregnancy heartburn easily is eliminated by taking 100 deep breaths. I haven’t found the time this week to string more than five deep breaths together at a time, and I don’t mean to be a complete cynic, but… I expect this is bullshit.)

The real theme this week has been, unfortunately, loss (that, and toddler diarrhea, but nobody wants that recap.)

Last weekend, my beloved cat, Bills, died suddenly from an undetermined illness. In the span of 24 hours he went from seeming perfectly fine (he even hopped into The Toddler’s crib on Saturday morning to indulge in some tentative snuggling) to weak, with labored breathing that had me rushing, too late, to an emergency vet.

Soon after, I had to make the urgent and heartbreaking decision to have him put out of his misery. In the end, he was too dehydrated to have any blood work or to be able to get an IV inserted, so I have no idea what killed him, and I wasn’t allowed to be in the room when he was euthanized. My husband and I buried him under a white pine tree and sprinkled wildflower seeds on his grave.

I know that the price you pay for the unconditional love of a pet is the inevitable goodbye at the end, but God, it’s hard. Bills slept as my “little spoon,” with his head on my pillow, almost every night for the past eight years. He was the through line for every scene change, major milestone, disappointment and triumph of my entire adult life.

He wandered into the backyard of the first house I rented with my then boyfriend (now husband), who named him “Bills” in an unsuccessful attempt to deter us from taking in a pet we could hardly afford at the time. Bills reluctantly traveled with us through five moves, tolerated and eventually loved the second cat and the dog we brought home, let me cry into his fur when I had a miscarriage, and sat with me in the predawn Christmas morning hours while I started timing the first contractions that brought my son into the world. He was a steadfast, uncomplicated source of comfort, and that was the hardest part of losing him: He wasn’t there to console me.

So  that’s the bittersweet cloud that has hung over the past week, as my belly gets rounder and time marches on. My family shrunk a little even as it grows. Though we suffered a loss, we get to keep the memories. And that’s something.

Pregnancy Week 19: A growing, shrinking family

Pregnancy Week 13: Belly flops

I’m going to keep this short because it’s 8 p.m. and I still haven’t eaten dinner and would really like to go to bed (oh hello food aversions, I thought we were through.)

Here are the highlights from Pregnancy Week 13:

1280px-immature_jalapeno_capsicum_annuum_var_annuum
CC BY-SA 3.0

My baby is the size of a jalapeno, large macaron, matchbox car, clownfish, pea pod, or Meyer lemon, depending on your source. It’s so annoying that these are all very different sized things that themselves can vary greatly in size. I think I’m going to publish a book that just has to-scale drawings of how big your baby is week by week (with pages that fold out toward the end.) TRADEMARK COPYRIGHT –ME RIGHT NOW. Do not steal this brilliant idea.

Um, where was I.

Oh, I am pretty sure I’ve started feeling the baby move around a little bit this week. It has happened more than once, and feels more like kicks and flips than the “bubbles” I first felt at like 18 weeks the last time around. I know it’s super early, but I feel reasonably confident I’m not imagining it.

I have also pretty much given up on all pants and shorts that do not have elastic waistbands. I even busted out my actual maternity jeans today. My belly has been weird to gauge this pregnancy (and I am most certainly not taking weekly photos like I did the first time around.) This is because, depending on my posture and how much I’m sucking in my gut, I look either a little flabby and 0 weeks pregnant, or 20 weeks pregnant. My abdominal muscles, unimpressive as they were to begin with, just never fully recovered from Baby No. 1, so I’m working with a pretty nebulous baseline.

I don’t remember exactly when it happened the last time around, but there was an extremely liberating moment when I realized I could not, and didn’t have to, suck in my stomach anymore. I know having good posture and “activating” your abs is good for helping avoid back pain, but I’m also really looking forward to the time I can really just embrace the bump rather than feeling like I’m trying to disguise a 3-donut breakfast.

Okay. Week 14 begins tomorrow, the definite beginning of the second trimester even by the most conservative standards. Can’t wait to see if I can get through the week with fewer than 3 naps.

Pregnancy Week 13: Belly flops

No bees, green trees, baby knees

dogwoods
Dogwood in bloom

Last week, The Husband took off work and stayed home with The Toddler while my dad and I drove 100 miles to pic up two nuclear hives of bees (known in the bee worlds as “nucs”). This was the final of three additions to our little hobby farm, and while I was apprehensive about keeping them alive, I was also excited for honey and felt righteous about pressing ahead, because bees need all the help they can get these days.

Unfortunately, we arrived to find a handwritten note on the door and a few sheriff’s deputies collecting everyone’s names and phone numbers. Apparently the apiary had lost its load of bees, and instead of trying to notify all its (prepaid) customers, some of whom had driven from out of state, they left a short note. The deputies explained that the owner said she’d be issuing refunds in the next few weeks. (They had been called to the apiary by angry customers who arrived before us–it’s not a criminal matter until/unless the owner doesn’t refund us our money.)

I made a bunch of phone calls that afternoon trying to find another source for bees. My local beekeepers association and even the Ohio State Beekeepers Association were incredibly helpful and sympathetic, giving me lots of leads to chase. It’s very late in the season, though, and most other apiaries are sold out. The closest one I found was a 2 1/2 hour drive, which isn’t something I can do with The Toddler, and The Husband can’t take more time off work before the end of the school year. We decided we’ll wait until next year to try bees. It’s frustrating, because we spent close to $1,000 on all our hives and equipment (and no-show bees), but a small part of me is a little relieved we have a year to get the hang of chickens and goats before we add bees to the list. I just hope I get my money back!

In other news, spring has truly sprung around us. The flowers are blooming and the trees are leafing out, and our morning walks, though muddy, are so fun. It has been a wet spring, so we took advantage of our one warm, sunny day this weekend to cut the grass, and I spent a good hour or so pulling poison ivy up from around the garden beds surrounding our house. (I’m covered in poison ivy now, because I did a crap job covering up. Don’t be like me.) We’re continuing the tradition of accidentally neglecting our vegetable garden, but despite this, there are carrots and beets and greens sprouting. The Husband planted a bunch of new fruit trees, which he waters dutifully every evening.

On our daily walks, The Toddler mucks around on his boots, blowing dandelion fuzz and collecting gravel from our driveway and carrying sticks. He’d live outside if we let him. It’s unbelievable how quickly he’s growing, in every way. He is tall and sturdy on his feet. He can run and play ring-around-the-rosy and nod his head when I arrive at his chosen option for snack. He wiggles his butt to music and shriekingly chases the pets and puts all the toilet paper rolls away when we come home from shopping. He knows the words for lots of things but prefers to imitate their sounds than to name them: nay, moo, meow, choo choo!

Yesterday, my friend and her sister came over with her sister’s new baby, who is two months old. It felt like 100 years ago that my kid was that small. The Toddler hasn’t been around a baby that young, and I was curious to see how he reacted. I wasn’t disappointed — he was over the moon. He kept bringing up toys and trying to hand them to the baby. He patted his knee, rubbed his belly, held his hand. He wanted to sit right next to him, and even got his baby doll out to hold in imitation of the baby’s mom.

It almost killed me, it was so cute.

Good thing The Toddler is 95% a joy during the day, because we have concluded he is going through a precocious “18 month” sleep regression (he’s 16.5 months, but close enough), as he literally will. not. go. to. sleep. unless someone is in the room with him, and has been waking 2-5 times a night. We had about four blissful sleeps through the night before this struck. Please, please come back.

So that’s been the past couple of weeks. Oh, to update you from the last post– the bunny died the following morning, to my mild dismay but not to my surprise. Also that evening, our dishwasher died. I’m waiting on delivery as I write for the new one, so most of my time the past 1.5 weeks has been spent washing dishes by hand–that is, when I’m not helping The Toddler down from a dining room chair or picking up the dry cat food he has scooped and scattered across the pantry.

The Husband built the goats a new, wooden day shelter that they have not yet attempted to scale, but which, I daresay, can handle the weight of a goat or two. Good man.

No bees, green trees, baby knees

I stepped in it.

Let’s just get into it. It’s spring here on the “farm,” and despite all very filtered (in more ways than one) #farmlife Instagram posts, things can get a little nuts and aren’t always beautiful.

Today was the morning after The Toddler decided he prefers to sleep if I’m lying on the floor next to his crib touching him. And today was also Day 3 of my desperate attempt to back myself off the way-too-much coffee habit I’ve found myself underneath again. So I was already at a disadvantage when naptime finally hit. I’d been kinda disengaged from everything all morning–going through the motions, slowly.

By 7 a.m., I had gotten the goats out with The Toddler on my back (and he is getting heavy!), and I kept him up there to feed and water the chicks and throw in a load of laundry. We puttered around the house all morning, me halfheartedly vacuuming and making my bed to try to feel somewhat productive because I just didn’t have the energy to invent or execute an errand to run. I played with The Toddler here and there, but definitely wasn’t particularly fun today. I also barely acknowledged my poor dog or the cats.

It was one of those “I can’t even” mornings. I thought about climbing into bed for a quick snooze once The Toddler went down. I loaded up my laptop and answered a few work emails before I heard the cats meowing at the back door to be let in.

The cats rushed past my legs, and there in front of the door was a little black creature. At first I thought it was a dead mole — not uncommon. But it looked weird: hairless, not mole-shaped, and definitely breathing. I sighed, shut the door and sent my husband a message. He suggested I mercy kill whatever it was, and as sorry as I felt for myself for having to squash a half-alive rodent, I agreed. So I grabbed an empty bread bag and a handful of tissues and braced myself to buck up and do a mercy kill.

When I opened the door again, though, I realized what I was seeing: A newborn baby rabbit.

Shit. I’m going to have to mercy kill a BABY, I thought, almost indulging in a little cry, as I lifted it with a tissued hand.

But then it rolled over, showing off a fat pink belly with just a couple little scratches, and nuzzled my hand. My maternal skinlessness was activated.

Long story short, it’s in a shoebox with a heating pad and the Internet research I’ve done up to this point has revealed the following information:

  1. It is illegal to try to rehabilitate injured wild animals in Ohio without a permit. (Sounds insane, but makes sense, I guess — wouldn’t want crazy animal lovers “rescuing” perfectly healthy babies/injured coyotes or whatever as an excuse to keep them as pets.)
  2. Baby rabbits are really, really, really hard to keep alive. One major reason is because they won’t get the right gut bacteria to survive without their mother’s milk (wahhhhh #breastfeeding), and one way to remedy this is to feed it a little rabbit poop from a healthy rabbit. I don’t exactly have the resources to fulfill this need.
  3. My cat knows exactly where the rabbit is. He also knows where its nest was, though he won’t tell me. I know this because he also tore apart one of the baby’s siblings all over my sidewalk, driving home the point that nature is a cold, cold son of a gun.

I left a message with a permitted rehab person and hope that either he calls me back and I can hand off the little bun to someone who knows what they’re doing, or that it will die at least peacefully and warm without too much suffering. (I am doing my best to feed it with kitten formula and wipe its tiny butt to get it to poop. I’m not going to starve it while I wait for a callback or fate.)

The Husband eventually made it home and I told him all about the bunny, and its dead sibling, and the subsequent live snake the cat left at the door today (sigh), and how just minutes before he had gotten home, our poor neglected dog ran away to my parents’ house while I walked her and gave the goats a hay refill. I figured that was enough craziness for the day.

So I was cutting the tip off a kitten bottle nipple with a razor blade while The Husband got The Toddler’s pajamas on, preparing to feed the bunny, when he yelled, “Reanna, you have to go outside right now! Cudi is on the roof of the hut!”

The “hut” is a temporary rain shelter, tarp over wire. We bought it when there was still snow on the ground last month and we needed something quick, but it’s a dog kennel. It is not meant to hold a goat’s weight (and honestly was pretty tall? Like, not something I expected them to be able to scale???)

I ran out the front door in my socks, razor blade still in hand because I was afraid of dropping it in the house. I set the blade on the porch and pulled my socks off as I ran to the goat pen, shouting, “Kid Cudi, no!!” as sternly as I could. He was unmoved, if seemingly a little annoyed that he was starting to sink.

It quickly became clear I was going to have to wade into the wet straw, mud and goat shit and get him down. Another opportunity to buck up and deal with #farmlife, I thought with mixed dismay and amusement, as I grabbed the fence to unlatch it…

…forgetting I was barefoot, standing in wet mud, grabbing a powered electric fence.

The Husband’s squeals of laughter weren’t cruel, but they were distracting.

I shook off my near electrocution and pressed in, trying to avoid obvious piles of goat pellets as I made my way to the goat on the roof. He sunk one side of the roof before hopping off. I sighed with relief and turned to leave. Heard from the window as I approached the fence, “He’s doing it again!”

Back through the goat shit, quick as I could, in time to watch him sink the whole roof. He managed to get out without help or injury, but I had to circle the hut and pull off the tarp because he obviously wanted to get right back up.

So that’s how I found myself nursing The Toddler before bed with probably a little goat shit on my feet.

It's #nationalfarmanimalday! Kid Cudi says *hayyyy* #kidcudi #kidcudithegoat #goatsofinstagram

A post shared by Reanna (@arkayokay) on

Guess that’s what happens when you jump into hobby farming with both feet.

I stepped in it.

Night weaning: A hard-fought victory

This announcement guarantees that last night’s sleep training success will be short-lived, but it feels so monumental that I cannot pretend it didn’t happen, even if it the victory is fleeting.

The Toddler slept from 7:45 p.m. to 5:55 a.m. With no wakings, no nursing, no tears.

You guys.

This is huge.

Sleep has been our family’s battleground for the past 15 months. Yes, breastfeeding was rough at first, but since we figured that out, sleep has been my white whale, my Sisyphean boulder, my biggest source of frustration and guilt and (of course) exhaustion as a parent. Ever since that little balogna loaf decided he wouldn’t sleep unless we were armpit to shoulder and boob to face at a week old, I’ve been daydreaming about the day I could put him in his crib with a, “See you in the morning!” and have it come true.

First it was months and months of first terrifying (thanks, unhelpful public health campaigns!) then resigned, then generally tolerable but still quite limiting and often uncomfortable bedsharing, then a month or two of his crib “side-carred” to our bed, then that fourth wall up and the crib in our room, then the big jump of the crib back to his room, and there we stalled for about the past five months.

We hit wave after wave of colds or teething in between brief but delicious spells where he’d drift off to sleep peacefully, waking once at about 3 a.m. for a quick nursing session before easily going back to bed. The fact he could do that made me start believing I might be able to convince him he could make it a few more hours.

Well, couldn’t… not by myself. It’s just been too easy to nurse him back to sleep when I’m still 60% asleep during his night wakings.

So we waited until The Husband was on spring break from work and didn’t have to wake up at 5 a.m. and enlisted him to be the night time hammer for the week. Usually, The Toddler screams in frustration if The Dad shows up during a night waking and points at the door until I relent, relieving The Dad of his duty, administering the night nursing. Not this week.

It was rough. The first four nights were hard going for The Dad and The Toddler. Lying in bed across the hall, I didn’t get much sleep, either, between the loud crying and the guilt. But we stuck it out. Even on the fourth night, when at 3 a.m. I decided to give The Husband a break and went in, I managed to refuse to nurse. The Toddler was enraged, but he eventually fell asleep. The Husband slept in a little in the mornings, and The Toddler took 3.5 hour naps every day this week (admittedly a bit of a silver lining through all this.)

Then last night, because I suspected he wasn’t really getting that much milk at his pre-bedtime nursing session, leading to that 3 a.m. wake up, and because I was hopeful for some success, I gave The Toddler a bottle of cow’s milk with his bedtime stories. He finished that off, then nursed, then gave me a hug and kiss good night (Oh my God, the best feeling ever, this new habit), and I left the room saying, “See you in the morning.”

And it worked! At least this once!

(I still slept fitfully, dreaming for the second night in a row about forgetting to take care of The Toddler the next day, and getting repeatedly awoken by our jerk cat who wants me to walk him to his full food bowl a few times a night because he likes the company?! But still, the potential for a full night’s sleep is closer than it has been since my second trimester.)

So. Here’s hoping this isn’t a fleeting taste of the rested life. The Toddler is just about done cutting his last canine, and we’re almost through cold season (though I know that’s a bit of a misnomer/pipe dream for someone who still licks food off the floor), so maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally start getting some sleep.

A girl can dream, right?

goodmorning
Good morning snuggles from the boy who slept through the night. Big thanks to his dad for enduring a nearly sleepless spring break. ❤ ❤
Night weaning: A hard-fought victory

Cooped up with kids (and life is sweet)

Good morning, Internet! As I’ve alluded… we’re going through some exciting additions to TLMB household and I’m thinking of shifting gears to a more hobby farm/parenting blog… workshopping the title, which I hope will make sense to you soon as it is basically one clever turn of phrase after another.

Cooped up

I have been up since 3 a.m. with inexplicable insomnia. Except it’s not really inexplicable… If I’m being honest, it’s a shadow of the sleeplessness I felt waiting for The Baby to arrive, fed in equal parts by sheer excitement and my obsessive need to plan. Because, my friends, in two short days I will be welcoming six new babies into my house.

Fluffy little chicken babies.

dominique_chicken
Dominique chicken By gunthercox (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Yes, The Husband and I are taking the leap into hobby farming with a half dozen chicks, who will, if luck prevails, provide us abundant eggs and entertainment.

I’ve trawled chicken blogs, researched breeds, assembled a brood box (though I still have to finish the second one and build a “chunnel” today), bought feed and bedding and heat lamps. We thought about building a coop, but after careful reflection on our carpentry skills and less than ample free time, we decided to buy a ready-made one that is now waiting for us at Tractor Supply to see if we can get our old yellow truck started to pick it up. (Note: A Subaru Impreza hatchback is not large enough to transport an 8 chicken-sized coop, even unassembled.)

First thing Tuesday morning, The Baby, my brother and I will head over to Grace Brothers Nursery to pick up the girls (which, despite its lackluster website is a great small business… and while we’re now closer to the North Royalton location I highly recommend anyone on the West side of Cleveland check out their urban farm shop on W. 65th.)

We’ll get some combination of the following breeds, selected for their temperament, hardiness, size, egg production and status (as available) as heritage/threatened breeds:

  • Golden Buffs (apparently a.k.a. Golden Comets or Red sexlinks, I think). This is a hybrid bird, and the sexlink means that female chicks are one color while males are another. They are bred to lay a lot of eggs.
  • Buff Orpingtons. These are extremely common, extremely big/puffy, and known in chicken circles as the “golden retriever of chickens” for their friendly, easygoing demeanor.
  • Dominiques. This is the breed I’m most excited about, as they are among the oldest American breeds, developed by some of the first European settlers to North America. Their barred black and white feathers provide camouflage against predators, they are extremely active foragers, very cold hardy and friendly. They’re also medium sized, I think about on-par with the Golden Buffs.
  • Silver-Laced Wyandottes. These are probably the showiest of our selection… check out those feathers. They’re big like the buff orpingtons and cold hardy, too. Perusing the chicken forums, I suspect these might have the greatest potential to be less friendly, but they’re still considered pretty easygoing and docile.

The chicks will spend about 6-8 weeks indoors getting bigger and growing feathers before they move out to their coop. I’m excited to see how The Toddler takes to them! (Don’t panic: No small children or dogs or cats will be left unattended with the flock. Handwashing precautions and kissing bans will be in place to prevent salmonella.)

So that’s the news in chickens.

With kids.

We still just have the one human kid (15 months old now. How?!) But in a week, we’ll be adding three literal kids to the family. Goat kids.

The Husband and I found three Nigerian Dwarf wethers (neutered males) available for sale from a lovely woman who lives in deep Amish Country, about an hour and a half south of us. We went to “interview” them a couple weeks ago and decided we had found the pets/weed eaters for us. They’re actually almost a year old, so maybe not kids much longer, but they’re super cute!

nigerdwarfgoat
Nigerian Dwarf goats. Ours have different coloring, but you get the idea. Cute! HoppingRabbit34 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
No, we’re not doing dairy goats. I know we’re already teetering on “more than we can handle” territory and can’t imagine keeping up with milking, let alone having to breed regularly and deal with newborn kids. And no, despite our jokes and hypothetical talks last summer when this crazy idea first crossed our minds, we’re not raising them for meat. They’re going to eat all our poison ivy and wild roses and enjoy the sunshine and sleep in the barn.

What I’m most nervous about with goat ownership is parasite/worm control. There is definitely a learning curve, but the woman selling the goats has already been really helpful in sharing resources, and we’ve been doing a lot of research and reading on our own. There’s no greater teacher than experience, though, right?

So on Saturday, we’ll go get our little herd. Today we will be setting up the electric fence and finishing setting up their barn stall and outdoor shelter to keep them out of the rain. And finding a mouse-proof place to keep the goat pellets we bought that isn’t the dining room.

More on goats as the story develops.

And life is sweet.

beekeeper

Our smallest new charges will arrive by the thousands in April. This is the piece of the hobby farm pie I’m most nervous about, as it seems you need an advanced degree to keep up with all the maintenance and disease prevention, but we’re going to start beekeeping.

We’ve been taking classes with the Medina Beekeepers Association over the past month, learning about bee anatomy and hive dynamics and mites and pollen and honey. While it will be really nice to have fresh honey if it works out, I feel a moral duty to at least try to take on this task, as honey bees continue to die out and be threatened by insecticides and pesticides and mites.

I don’t have much more to say about beekeeping yet because I still have so much to figure out, but by late April we’ll have the hives installed, and if the weather conditions are right, we might be able to harvest a little honey by the end of the season.

So there you have it. Our little homestead is taking shape, and my days of reading books and folding laundry and freelancing will also be days of sweeping a coop, trimming hooves and checking hives. It’s going to be a big change for our family, and thus a big shift in topic matter for the blog. I hope you don’t mind. Stick around–if for nothing else than the many, many pictures of baby chickens I’ll inevitably post in the coming weeks.

 

 

Cooped up with kids (and life is sweet)

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