Hitting it Big in the Blogosphere

badge-2013Well, it’s official: I have joined that hallowed band of writers whose work has been recognized by other writers as something worth reading.

No, I’m not talking about my short story, “Robert and Roberta,” a tale of two robots who find love, chosen as the first place fourth-grade entry in a school-wide contest. And not my piece about life lessons from Kermit the Frog published in my college paper, either. I’m talking about my recent submission to Listen to Your Mother: Austin a national series of original live-readings on local stages and via social media sponsored in part by Blogher. It’s kind of a big deal.

I read about the call for submissions on the Austin Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators site in February and decided that would be a great way for me to meet my goal of submitting in 2013. I had no real expectation that anything would come of it, but I was part of the small group chosen to read for the producers and part of an even smaller group chosen for the final show.

My name is going on posters. And on the internet. With a link to this humble blog. People might actually read more of what I write – in fact, they already have. Since the cast announcement went live yesterday, this humble site has had forty-nine hits. Forty-nine, people! This is the BIG TIME!!!

Seriously, though, it’s really cool. Unexpected, who-woulda-thunk-it, spectacularly cool.

And, I should be more excited. I really should.

But the truth is, it’s a little like the dream where you are on stage delivering the valedictory address at Harvard only to find you’re not wearing any clothes. The piece is very personal – perhaps more than it would have been if I had actually thought I had a chance at being included. Without violating the “no spoilers” agreement, it is about my struggle to parent over the head-noise of less-than-ideal childhood messages and experiences. Tough stuff. And while I did write the piece without judgment for the sources of that noise, without even identifying those sources, in fact, just talking about it in such a public forum leaves me feeling more than a little vulnerable.

But perhaps that is what made the piece something the producers thought people should hear. It’s not a “downer” piece. It’s not a “poor me” piece. And it’s certainly¬† not a “blame and shame” piece. But, it is real and raw and honest. Parts of it are even funny.

And all of it is me.

So, if you are or will be in the area, buy your tickets soon. I understand they sell like the proverbial hotcakes. Check out the producer’s bios (Boy! Am I glad I didn’t peek before my audition! Talk about intimidating!) and the links to other cast members’ pages. And, if you think of it on May 9, message me and remind me to get dressed before I go on stage.

Modesty Schmodesty

Earlier this week, a friend posted about how happy she was that her young daughter was absorbing her lessons about being “more modest around Daddy” so that she could be a “proper lady.” Maybe this sounds good to some folks – less streaking through the house, closed doors during bathroom time – and who wouldn’t want less streaking and a moment of privacy once in awhile? But, something about that post bugged me. It bugged me a lot. So, I did what everyone does when something bugs them on Facebook: I posted about it.

No, I didn’t post about it where the original poster would see it. I do have some social graces. (Some.) And besides, this person is an AMAZING mother. She and her husband are kind, decent, loving people and I know that her statement was probably like some of my own – just something said in passing as a means to a much-desired end. Like the time I told my son McDonald’s puts poo in their food so that he would quit encouraging daddy to take him on secret trips to that bastion of nastiness. If I had known at the time how many embarrassing moments that little statement would create, I would never have said it. Anywho, I posted about the modesty comment in a closed, secret group whose members are mothers like me, most of us going against the local cultural grain and raising children without things like rigid gender roles and spankings.

Of course, whereas everyone agreed that something about that post was “off,” no one could articulate what was so bothersome. One friend posted about how sad she felt when, at age eight, her mother told her she could no longer sit on her father’s lap or cuddle with him, but there were no other useful replies. So, I had to live with it awhile.

In the meantime, it was bath day, so I showered with both boys. I soaped their bodies and washed my own. The older one is learning to wash himself now and proudly said, “I’m washing my body to be healthy!” Then, I dressed them – after chasing the mobile one naked down the hall – and got dressed myself. Later in the day, I explained to him for the twenty-second time why it is not necessary to change his underpants after he pees, and then had a brain flash and taught him what that nifty little flap is for on the front of his skivvies. He ran to the kitchen in all his glory to show his dad his new trick and back again to finish dressing. I nursed the baby throughout the day, my older son joining us on the couch at times, gently touching my breasts as his brother fed and noticing which one was full and which one was not. He also used my legs as a stomping ground for various dinosaur toys; when one of them stomped into my groin, I explained that it was private and dinosaurs aren’t allowed to stomp there. This was okay with my son – and the dinosaur. I wiped bottoms several times throughout the day and, after wrestling my older son into his pajamas and into his bed that night, collapsed into my own bed topless to nurse the little raptor.

And, then it hit me. Whenever I hear “modesty” mentioned, it is always tied to the idea that a person (almost always female) needs to cover their body so as not to embarrass or, worse, sexually excite another person. So to me, telling a child they need to be modest around the opposite sex parent implies that the parent is likely to be a) embarrassed by the child’s body and/or b) sexually excited by it. As a mom, both of those ideas are repugnant to me. My sons’ bodies do not embarrass me – I grew those little bodies in all their beauty and wonder inside my own. And the suggestion that their bodies are or ever will be sexually exciting to me is so horrible, so unfathomable that I just don’t have any words. If I were a father of little girls, I would not want these to be the messages conveyed to my children.

And since my friend explicitly ties modesty to being ladylike, it sounds to me like the preamble to the argument that boys/men can’t control themselves, that women are responsible for boys/men, and that women who are assaulted are somehow to blame. Definitely not a message I want my children to absorb.

So, in our house, bodies are just bodies – cool and freaky and awesome. Bodies make scabs to protect boo boos and then HEAL THEMSELVES. Bodies have parts that get stinkier than others. Bodies have parts that are private – only mommy, daddy and the doctor have any reason to touch them. Bodies burp and fart and sing and whistle. Bodies take food and turn it into energy for us to live. Bodies have hairs in different places: you get more hairs when you get older, and then some hairs fall out when you get really old. Bodies run and jump and climb. Boy bodies have penises that can shoot pee really far. Mommy bodies can grow babies inside and then they make milk for babies to eat. Mommy bodies get squishy tummies from growing babies, but the squishy tummies feel good for resting on and make nifty puppets. Bodies are for living and bodies are for loving and they aren’t something to be ashamed of – they are something to be lovingly cared for.

Those are the messages I want my children to absorb – not shame-inducing messages about themselves or about their mother’s mental health. Might I change my mind when they grow older? Perhaps, but doubtful. Will I be thrilled if they streak down the hall at fifteen? No, but as long as they don’t head out the front door, I can deal. I certainly won’t need to bathe with them when they are eight, but I’m not going to have the vapors if one of them walks in on me in the shower. I believe children learn to respect their bodies – and others – not by hiding them away or adhering to antiquated notions of “ladylike” or “gentlemanly” behavior – but by learning about them and how to care for and appropriately appreciate other bodies. I want my boys to love themselves – every part of themselves – and I want them to know that I always will, too.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my oldest just streaked down the hallway and I think he’s headed for the front door.

Would You Rather?

There is a “Would You Rather?” graphic making the Facebook rounds. Question one is, “Would you rather drink your child’s backwash or eat their chewed food?” The options do not improve. “Would you rather wake up in your child’s urine or deal with an accident at Target?” (Why Target? Are accidents in Target worse than accidents in say, the library? The zoo? A funeral home?)

Truthfully, there are countless things I’d rather be doing each day than some of the things I find myself doing. Every day. All day. For what seems like eternity.

Take yesterday, for example. Before the neighbor’s rooster (yes, our neighbor has a rooster and no, we do not live in the country) had crowed the break of day, my oldest was up and raring to go. “Mom, can I come snuggle with you?” To which I gave the only possible reply. “No! Do NOT come in here!” Because snuggling to this child means running into my room, and taking a flying leap onto the bed. Extra points are awarded for squashing his baby brother and waking him. But, of course, my denial was met with loud protestations. “I HATE you! I will never snuggle with you ever again! NEVERRRRRR!” I resisted the urge to shout, “Hot damn and hallelujah!” Instead, I tried to sleep again.

You know what happened next, right? Fifteen minutes and thirty-seven annoying outbursts later, he brought out the heavy artillery: “Mom, I pooped!”

Shit. Literally and figuratively.

Poop is an event around here. It deserves its own post. Really. (Hm. Wonder how many followers I’ll get based on that assertion?) But, I’ll spare you the details. I’ll simply say that this announcement required my immediate attention.

Ten minutes later, our house was restored to order, my appetite was destroyed for at least forty-eight hours and curiously, snuggling now seemed a very attractive prospect.

“Would you rather?” indeed.

Most of my mornings are a variation on that theme. The afternoons are not always any better. And sometimes, bed times are hellacious. I often fantasize about returning to work. With people who never ask to snuggle, not at any hour of day or night. People who are completely independent in the bathroom. But then, I realize those people aren’t MY people.

So, would I rather work in the outside world or at home with my hooligans? I’ll take the hooligans.

And, for the record, I’ll take the chewed food and the pee any day.