I continue to have the honor of joining a few other mamas in a blog circle. Each month we write letters to our kiddos. When you’re finished reading mine, click here to read Kaylon’s letter. Keep reading the letters and following the links, and you’ll eventually come full circle, back here.
This month marks the first time you kids saw Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. (Kitten, you fell asleep hard during TESB, so don’t panic that you don’t remember the story line.) Puppy, you’ve been talking about the flicks non-stop since your first viewing and I am eating it up. I love talking Star Wars almost as much as I love talking camera gear. Though I didn’t expect we’d have to devote an entire evening to exploring what it means to be a scoundrel, and where scoundrels fit on a seven-year-old’s good-guy/bad-guy continuum.
And we stayed up late another night, coming to grips with how Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker are the same person, and whether Obi-Wan’s description of them as separate is technically a lie. Honestly, it was easier to grasp the Holy Trinity in Catholic School.
Oh, spoiler alert, by the way. ^^
I had always planned to capture on film the moment my kids learn of Luke Skywalker’s ancestry, but the preschool playground spoiled that plan for me years ago. I wish I had had the foresight to film you watching your first kissy-face scene, thought, Puppy. Remember, in TESB, when Han moves up on Leia during a secluded moment on the Millennium Falcon while they’re hiding out on a meteor*? The sexual tension so rattled you, Puppy! Daddy and I glanced over to find you with your hands smashed against your face, your mouth spasming in a kind of rictus of anguish. Were you enticed by the kissy-kissy, or grossed out? Probably both.
Though we took several weekend trips this month (camping in Deception Pass, family reunion of sorts in Aberdeen, Memorial Day weekend at Hood Canal), the highlight of the month, for me, was our afternoon canoe along the Mercer Slough. That canoe has taken us to such beautiful places; I’m grateful to your Daddy for building it each time we take it out. Plus, have you kids noted how many compliments we get on the canoe? It’s gorgeous.
There was a moment, on our most recent paddle, that sticks with me: You two were your usual bundle of chaos in the middle of the canoe. You’re always shifting and tilting, fishing and pointing, begging and quarreling… Then there was a moment of stillness. You both were munching on popcorn when Puppy observed that the scenery passing was “like watching a movie.”
Whatever it takes to get you in content in nature.
One day, during day-care pick-up, your teacher approached me with a most grave aspect, Kitten, and pulled me aside for a discrete conversation. Naturally, I thought she was going to tell me you’d been lighting other kids’ hair on fire, her demeanor was so grim. But no—you’d simply announced, on the playground earlier that day, that you didn’t want to have any babies. “It hurts,” you explained, quite reasonably.
Now, this news does sadden me. I look forward to watching you lose your shit with babies loving on my grandbabies, but it’s not like you Heil Hitler’d your teacher. I’d say she’s overreacting.
I don’t dare tell your teacher that, every night since your announcement, you’ve been quizzing me on how to not have babies. You’re not satisfied with my assurances that your concern is premature; you want to know specifics, dammit. So I told you about “medicines” that prevent you from having babies until you want them.** And now you ask me, daily, where to get the medicine, and whether I have the medicine, and can you take the medicine now.
I want to be matter-of-fact in my answers, but I nevertheless slipped in a plug for having babies. “You know what I would do with your babies? I would love on them just like I love on you. I’d just swaddle ‘em up and gobble ‘em down!” And you oh so thoughtfully agreed that you would have babies, so long as I carry them in my tummy.
I don’t know why the things that stick with me stick with me. There was an episode of The Jetsons about a hundred years ago, wherein the teenage daughter has a crush on a rock star, and she submits song lyrics to a contest to win a date with the star. Only, her father replaces her lyrics submission with a page ripped out of his son’s secret cipher. Naturally, the rock star loves the cipher, and he writes a song with it: Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah, That Means I Love You. The lyrics to the song stay with me, and I taught them to you two. And now, on occasion, when we’re saying good bye or good night, you’ll tell me, with a wry smile, “Eep opp ork ah ah.”
Maybe that will become our abduction-prevention code word.
This month was a little tough for me. I think I slipped into a depression. I’m not sure, though, as my depressions are usually marked with paranoia (that I’m a burden, that everyone would be better off without me, that the words you’re saying don’t reflect what you’re thinking [about me]), whereas this time the predominant emotion was anger—anger that I, alone, have to carry the weight of the world. I’m still trying to figure out what’s my deal, and how to deal with my deal. I’ve got a lot of internal conflicts raging – I’m terrified of losing my job, but I resent being at my job; I need routines to keep me moored, but the obligation of keeping routines pisses me off. See? How do I live with myself?
Which of course begs the question: How does anyone live with myself?
Something’s got to change, or your Daddy is going to become a miserable person, and you’re both going to reflect back on my mothering as a shroud you couldn’t wait to lift. The problem is… I’m pretty sure the thing that has to change is the time that I spend on photography, and that scares me. Because I can’t help feeling sure that the less I do or think about photography, the less interested I’ll feel in living life. But I also have to acknowledge that the photography, at this moment, has become another of the obligations that’s wearing me down.
Anyway, if, by the time you’re reading this, your memory of my mothering is that of storming around, muttering angrily and occasionally snapping, just know that I don’t like it either, and I’m trying to put Mean Mommy back in her box.
The neighbors had a playdate at their house recently. The kid they had over is in your grade at your school, Puppy, but not in your class—remember? I think his name is Arlen. Arlen, incidentally, is African-American.
I regret that Arlen’s race is noteworthy—by which I mean, I regret that our community is so homogenous.
While the kids were playing in our backyard, Kitten – you observed (out loud) that Arlen’s skin is “so dark.” A ripple of fear coursed through me and I screamed (at myself, silently) DON’T FUCK UP THIS TEACHABLE MOMENT!! Your Daddy skipped over the mental fumbling and simply replied, “Yep. And what color is your skin, Kitten?” Again, the ripple of fear as I expected you’d answer “White” and confirm for me that you’re already aware of racial divides and, thus, burdened by inadvertent racist thought. But you studied your forearm and answered matter-of-factly, “Light brown.” Then you described Daddy’s skin as peach, and mine as pink. Et voila! We’re all homo sapiens and we come in a variety of colors. Phew.
But I wonder if and when we should discuss the historical antecedents for racism in our country. Other than knowing not to broach it as my mother did for me, “The slaveholders didn’t know any better,”*** I’m not sure how to navigate the topic without fucking up the teachable moment. But I better get on it before whoever spoiled Luke Skywalker’s ancestry for you does. I shudder to imagine the school-playground view of race relations.
There were enough gems this month for an installment of:
Babes, Out Of The Mouths Of
- I only like Dora the Explorer when she stays home. –Kitten, observations from the backseat.
- Oh look! A hummingbird. (Seconds pass…) Oh never mind; it’s just a mosquito. –Puppy, while canoeing.
- Callepitter for “caterpillar.” – Kitten, during Insect Month at school.
- Scub Scouts for “Cub Scouts.” – Kitten, each time Puppy has a Cub Scouts meeting.
- Glassful for “fragile.” – Kitten, explaining that one should take care not to rip her skin, as it’s delicate. To which Puppy observed, astutely, that “rip” should not be used in conjunction with “skin,” as it’s disquieting. I concur.
* Han’s behavior is deplorable and assaultive. He was undoubtedly demoted for it when they got back to base. Just FYI.
**Also, don’t vote Republican.
***Yes they did, Mom.