Forever Hold Your Peace

stop-sippin-haterade

I wasn’t nice to my brother’s girlfriend. She was 17, and he was 20, and I was jaded by the string of girls he brought along before and thought “it’s not like he’s going to marry this girl,” and so I gave her the cold-shoulder. And then he married her. And boy was that awkward for awhile (like, even now, 8 years and a sorta-divorce later). I didn’t have the decency to treat her nicely at the beginning, though, deep down, I have a pocketful of reasons to give in defense of my bad behavior, if it’s ever necessary. What I learned from that experience, was my relatively shitty inability to articulate my feelings in the moment, which could have saved years of conflict down the road.

All of this was brought up in my mind, yesterday, when I was chatting with my bestie Ruth about a conflicted experience she had recently. In my brilliant wisdom (sarcasm? maybe?) I reminded her that emotions are stored on one side of the brain, and language on the other, and that sometimes it’s hard to get the language and emotions to match up nicely and to be able to articulate all those fee-fees that you’re having. Not to mention, it’s fucking awkward to confront someone, regardless, because very few of us were taught how to do this type of communication in our formative years (and as adults, do we really want to risk losing relationships if the conflict goes badly?).

It’s reminiscent of the “forever hold your peace,” line they say in movie weddings (because, that’s not a real wedding thing…right?). But you know what, this ‘forever hold your peace,’ shit is pretty fucking hard when you’re someone who has lots of opinions and thoughts and wants things to be logical.

I don’t like things that feel incongruent. I have a hard time when I see people say one thing and then do something else. I have a hard time when things don’t seem to add up or make sense, at least on some level. When I sense these mixed messages, I feel confused, and frustrated, while also unable to articulate my feelings in a way that doesn’t seem rude or attacking because it’s hard to verbalize frustration with unspoken energy actions. Does that even make remote sense?

I’m good with conflict in the moment, when I feel something and am able to say, “I’m annoyed,” or “I’m feeling uncomfortable.” What I have a hard time with, is feeling annoyed or uncomfortable with something, brushing it off as ‘no big deal,’ and then having something else happen, and something else, and something else, until finally I’m at the point where I’m unfriending them on facebook (true story: hi sis!) and they’re like “um, wtf just happened?” If I had just told my sister that I was annoyed with her inconsistent love and open acceptance paired with terribly racist retweets on facebook, the first time it happened, maybe I wouldn’t have been so far down the line that I either wanted to shut down (or cut off) or scream and throw things.

So I’m stuck in this dilemma and I don’t know what to do, how to change, to be a different person. It feels unfair to bring up conflict or frustration over something that happened six months, two years, ten years, ago, especially when realized that is bottled up and I might not be able to say it in a nice way. And yet, I feel like trying to live in the ‘forever hold your peace,’ camp is eating away at me. And I would feel shitty, too, if a friend came to me six months later, I might be like “why didn’t you tell me when this happened? Why did you pretend everything was okay?”

What to do?

Because avoiding it is only adding to the pressure, and I don’t want to be a fucking psycho, you know?

 

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Don’t Call Me Goldilocks

Goldilocks

I got to the coffee shop early, to get my cappuccino order in and to make sure they had my favorite blueberry scone. I was meeting a friend from church, and her niece (and great grand nieces) to have a little ‘intervention’ type meeting. In reality I was mostly there to give some advice and de-stigmatize mental illnesss, and give some information on career development. But before the meeting started, I went and got myself a table…

I sat down at the head of a long table, nestled my purse in one chair, and spread my stuff out, thinking it’d be a good place to talk without bothering the others that were sitting around quietly doing their coffee shop thing. After I had sat there for a second, I decided that I would sit on one side of the table, letting my friend and her niece sit next to each other, thinking that they might feel more comfortable without being split up. So I shuffled my things, and switched seats, and heard a male voice say:

“What, are you like Goldilocks?”

Ignoring him, I brought out my notepad and broke my scone. I could see him out of my peripheral vision, sitting in the ‘comfy’ chairs to my right by the door.

“Did you not hear me? Everyone’s tuned out these days. Ear buds and not paying attention to things people say.”

And that when I said, without turning my head,

“No, I heard you the first time, I was just ignoring your rude commentary on my seating choice. I moved because I had a friend coming with her friend and thought they’d feel more comfortable sitting next to each other.”

Maybe I sounded bitchy. He laughed when I said the line about hearing and ignoring him. And then he started rambling to the guy next to him about the takeover of technology (that guy was reading on his iPad) and how he only has a cell phone to call his sister because she has cancer.

The crisis counselor helpful type felt bad for him. I’ve met friends (hi Yan!) in similar situations in this coffee shop before. I somehow manage to attract people with personal issues whenever I’m minding my own business. Maybe they see things that others don’t, and sometimes I’m int he mood, but today I was not. Because he called me Goldilocks, like I was a little girl. And said it in a derogatory way, with disdain in his voice.

Annoying.

And the older I get the less I can keep my mouth shut when someone annoys me. I don’t think my response was rude, just blunt and to the point. Tit for tat. He didn’t seem offended, and after awhile ambled away with is $1 refill.

When Parenting Philosophy Butts Up Against Sideline Parenting

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The look on his face was fear, and then it crumpled into pouty shame as he buried his face in the couch. I reached out my arms and pulled him close. There he buried his face and stayed until is breath returned to normal, finally calm. He came to me, his mama, for comfort, snuggles, love, and guidance. Because after he caught his breath, and was ready again to face the world, I spoke softly in his ear about what he could do and what he wasn’t allowed to do. I explained the rules. I explained what had happened.

He had been exploring I’m sure, as 2 year olds are want to do, and in that exploration he crossed an invisible line.  He’s learning about the world, exploring the difference between okay things and not okay things. There was a rule out there that he didn’t know, and so he had simply been obliviously doing his thing. My parenting philosophy is mostly that of observation and experimentation while keeping the BIG picture in mind. He’s 2. He hasn’t figured everything out yet. And just like how rules ebb and flow as we age, I am confident that my son will continue to be guided and molded into the person he’s supposed to be. But it won’t all be today.

He’s mischievous, curious, sweet, and mostly gentle. Or mostly mischievous. He’s got that Sagittarius blood flowing in his veins. He likes adventure and adrenaline rushing through his little body as he shouts “MORE, MORE,” when I swing him wildly through the air. He likes climbing. I like piercings. He likes jumping. I like tattoos. He likes splashing insanely in the hot tub. I like that too. We like adventure. We like excitement. We like exploration.

But parenting is fraught with challenges. Being an adventurer is fraught with challenges. In exploring the okayness to not-okayness blurry lines he has made mistakes. He’s learning that rules we have at home may not apply at school, the grocery store, or friend Mari’s house. Hes 2 and hasn’t figured it out yet. When he walks out of the kitchen proudly holding a serrated knife and grinning, he is focusing on his cleverness of figuring out the puzzle that is the kitchen counters, and has no concept that knife could cause him to bleed out if he stabbed himself with it. That’s the adult story laid on top of his actions.

I can’t expect everyone to parent their kids like I do. Because the freeing thing is that I allow myself to be myself as a parent. Because I am comfortable with him exploring the woodshed alone, and am aware of the consequences of what might happen if he were to get hurt, I go with my gut and let him explore. But the challenge in being my brand of parent is that there are sideline participants in our life whose philosophies on parenting vary drastically. For the most part this doesn’t cause conflict or complication, as Potamus knows who his parents are, but when I’m left with my way of being in the world with my son bumping up against another’s comfort zone in sideline-parenting (as in the above example), I scratch my head for what to do.

Because my instinct is to scream. My natural fight (vs. flight) tendency is always to unleash the claws, and it’s only intensified in my entrance into motherhood. My comfort zone for acceptable exploratory behavior is not the same as others, and so I am sometimes left in a position of biting my tongue while comforting my son. I’m battle the prejudice that I don’t have ‘rules,’ or that I don’t ‘discipline,’ while also battling the appeared belief that my child is ‘naughty,’ or ‘out of control’ or that children should ‘behave’ like little adults.

It’s easy to be on the sideline, to look in and say ‘I would do this,’ or ‘my kid wouldn’t behave like that,’ but those are lies. I sit with Mari and watch our boys run around;  they act like angels and dicks at the same time. And she gets Potamus to eat blueberries that I’ve been trying to get him to eat for months, and I get her son to try and play nicer with the baby. Being the non-parent isn’t hard, because it isn’t 24/7. And so to take that tiny snapchat of a moment and think ‘oh if I were blah blah blah parent I would blah blah blah’ is delusional at best, and damaging at worst.

I can’t save Potamus from all the hurt in the world. I can’t save him from being scolded, and shamed, and disciplined. But I’d like him to remain free from fear and shame for as long as possible. I’d like to be the parent who puts aside my jealousy that “when I was a kid I couldn’t watch TV” and confidently let him pick a show to watch. I’d like to live into the truth that his experience will not be the same experience as mine, that my parents will treat him differently than they treated me, and that just because his experience isn’t the same it doesn’t mean mine was bad or wrong (although it could also mean that there were bad or wrong parts). I try to set aside the cultural idea of controlling a child in order to make sure that he becomes a ‘good’ person, because I believe that he is already a good person. And I believe that freedom to explore under his mama’s watchful eye is how he will learn to be the most authentic Potamus he can be. And that somehow, just like me, he will make mostly-amicable peace with the idea that rules exist, and he’ll know when to follow them, and when to mindfully break them.

And so I won’t punch or scream or cuss them out, though in the moment I was seething with rage. Instead I will remember that the sideline, just like in sports, is where the people who sit who aren’t playing the game. And their opinions and rants and rituals have less effect on the outcome as the players and coaches on the field. I’m in this with him. We’re on the field. We’re playing our game. And it involves climbing on tables and getting tattoos.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly;” Theodore Roosevelt

So, I hate this woman in my yoga class…

Yoga is MY time. I get to be in a space where the sole focus is on breathing, being mindful, paying attention to my body as it is experiencing the poses today, and learning how to let go of all the stuff around me. And I’m being seriously challenged in this aspect by my sheer hatred for this woman in my class. My level of anger toward her is ridiculous, and feels only somewhat justified, but it’s clearly bothering me and isn’t affecting her one whit, which makes me even more annoyed. I know that in the past I blogged about feeling jealous and annoyed with that student, Mellow (because wtf kind of yogic name is that anyway?), but this frustration is much more intense and it is causing me a lot of grief.

It started a couple of weeks ago. This women, I’ll call her Gladiola, was practicing in the corner with her yoga friend. It was a new teacher, and I was absolutely LOVING his class. The way his voice said all of the words I hear every time was somehow magical. My body was connecting with the verbal adjustments and I just felt lovely. My friend Mari was with me, and we were sweating and rocking out to a really good class. And when it came to the final savasana, I felt so good, he turned the fans on, said his final ‘namaste’ and left the room.

BOOM

Up Gladiola went, huffing all the way over the fan switch, loudly turned them off, and then stomped back over onto her corner mat and laid down on her belly like she was sun-tanning. My system felt shocked from her level of angry energy rippling through the room and I stopped my savasana short, rolled up my mat, and Mari and I headed out. AND THEN there was the vibe in the locker room. When she came slamming her sweaty shit around, complaining thing “I just can’t relax when it is soooo cold in there,” and going on and on about how she’s going to take her bitch-ass-complaint to the owner. Ugh. It was the guy’s first class teaching at this studio, and she couldn’t cut him some slack, not to mention she wasn’t the only one in the class, and frankly, I enjoyed myself.

Now, the past few weeks I’ve noticed her bitching in the locker room, butting in on other people’s conversations, and dramatically sighing when they complained about it being 101 and feeling hot, because, “it’s supposed to be 110 you know” (it’s not, Bikram is actually supposed to be 105, and I imagine saying that to her while I shove my foot up her ass).

But here’s the deal…she doesn’t even know I exist. My hatred extreme dislike is really annoying to me. I know that I am hyper-sensitive to vibes, but her energy has actually changed my behavior…making me leave the comfortable locker room before I’m ready to avoid the icky feeling around her, and makes me feel uncomfortable practicing anywhere near her in the smallish studio. I don’t like it. I go to yoga to get away from the stresses of my life, not to be more stressed out!

Because I’m an overanalyzer, I have spent a lot more time thinking about this than I probably should. I wonder if I am just jealous of her tiny little yoga outfits or the way she struts about the studio like she owns the place. Do I think that I want to be like her? Heck no! Even that Mellow chick, who I felt was really bendy and tried too hard, seemed like a nice person underneath the extra impressive stretching at the beginning of class. I honestly don’t think it’s jealousy. I think this woman is actually putting a bad vibe out into the world and because my boundaries are so thin, her black vaporous energy is seeping into my space and I’m being affected.

So, last night I tried to do some meta while in savasana and cobra pose. I could see her in the mirror, and I tried to send her positive thoughts. I tried to chant “may you be free from suffering,” but I’m not sure it actually worked. I mean, I’m not sure it actually changed ME, though maybe she’s having  a fantastic day today. Who knows.

HELP! How can I rid myself of this frustration with a stranger who’s tainting the otherwise lovely energy in my yoga studio experience?

Discrimination at the college level

I am so angry I could spit, or fight. In fact, my eyebrow was raised practically the whole afternoon class and the smile on my face was really because my teeth were clenched and I was trying to keep from punching the librarian in the face. And then kicking her in the face when she was down on the ground. Because her treatment of my students was so overly-the-top rude that I cannot let it go and will be speaking to my supervisor about it on Monday.

My students were working on a collaborative assignment facilitated in a computer lab at the college library. When the librarian came in, she was tense already, which is something I’m unacustomed to. Normally all of the staff I’ve met on campus are quite friendly and don’t openly seem to treat my students with disdain. I have to remind myself that the stigma of being a “high school dropout,” or an “at risk youth,” is something these students fight daily. While often annoyed, I am fiercely protective of my students. They are beautiful individuals and should not be shamed or bullied because of some arbitrary rules.

So, the students had been broken up into their groups and were beginning to work on their assignments. One of my students got a phone call, and stood up, saying “hey dad I’m in class, I’m going to have to call you back.” We’ve all been there, right? The awkward phone call where you just have to get off real quick but if you don’t answer you know you’ll be in trouble, or the person will be worried, etc. The librarian FREAKED THE FUCK OUT though. Now, keep in mind, we were not in the middle of the library. We were in a private computer lab. Nor was she presenting. They were working independently. And she didn’t acknowledge that he had turned away from the group (in order to keep it quiet) and had said “dad I need to call you back.” She raised her voice and got in his face saying, “you need to get off the phone. NOW.” and then she repeated herself when he said, “it’s my dad. he’s dying of cancer and he’s in the hospital. I’m telling him I’ll call him back.” She clearly did not listen (or thought he was spinning a story?) and said again, almost shouting, “I SAID GET OFF THE PHONE.”

Incredibly rude.

What’s worse, is this student is on the Autism Spectrum. He has many accommodations, is freaking brilliant and works SO HARD to fit in socially and do “the right thing.” He is super polite and I know that he would never take a call if it weren’t an emergency. By this point (which all happened within 30 seconds), I was up and standing next to him. And she said to me, “they are not allowed cell phones in the library.” And I replied, since he had left the classroom after she directed him to, “he has autism. his dad is dying of cancer. I am aware of the cell phone rule, but he has accommodations that are allowed to him.”

I wanted to punch her. I’m surprised I kept my cool enough, because I was livid. I don’t care if there’s a cell phone rule or not, shouting at someone is NOT the way to handle it. Correcting a student’s behavior has a time and place, and I just know that if he wasn’t seen as an “at risk” student, he would NOT have been yelled at like that. No way. If he was 50, or 25, and talking quietly on his phone? Nope, nobody would yell at him.

And I also wonder.

Was it because he was black? Or because he’s 6’4?

Because I can’t imagine her yelling, in the same fashion, at one of my less intimidating physically white students. Or maybe she would, but even if my student wasn’t black, or on the autism spectrum, or have a dad dying from cancer. But it was rude. And I think it needs to be addressed.

As we walked out of the library, after the presentation, I took him aside and said:

“Hey dude, I just wanted to apologize for how she talked to you. I think it was inappropriate for her to address you that way, and I informed her that you were telling the truth. I sometimes think faculty here profile CEO students and how you were treated was not okay. Just know that I was angry about the situation, and angry on your behalf, because it really wasn’t okay.”

His response? Ever so sweet he said, “thank you Ms. Monk-Monk. I appreciate that. Have a good weekend.”

And he tipped his hat and lumbered off into the rain, all the while lugging his gigantic over sized backpack.

Name calling

waiting up for grammy and grampy

waiting up for grammy and grampy

One thing I hate about being a parent, is when I feel more grown up than my own parents. Since Potamus was born I have found myself in many situations where I have had to be assertive, not just for my own sake, but for the well-being of my son. Like last night…Potamus had stayed up to see grammy and grampy come over. We were listening to music on our TV and the Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball” song came on. My son was looking at the TV and my dad said “Potamus, isn’t she stupid looking?”

My immediate reaction was to say, “dad, I don’t think we want him exposed to that kind of name-calling.”

Because, by calling Miley Cyrus ‘stupid-looking,’ sets an example for him to look at people and judge based on their appearance. Not to mention, simply saying “stupid looking” doesn’t really get to the heart of what my dad was actually trying to say. Because I know him, I know that he was meaning, ‘hey Potamus, don’t follow her example in dress or dance,” but the bigger social commentary about drugs, fashion, ‘secular music,’ and sexuality is lost on a 22 month old…so it was reduced to a ‘looks stupid’ line. But ‘looks stupid’ is something that Potamus might repeat…and might repeat in daycare or school about someone his own age. He might think that it’s okay to call people stupid or that if he dresses a certain way he will look stupid himself. That’s not okay.

Grandparents setting poor example is hard for me to deal with. I know that this is only the beginning, but it’s frustrating to enjoy my time with them, without having to micromanage their interactions. And I know that my parents were really careful when we were kids, so I’m wondering what on Earth has changed?!

How do you deal with family members saying/doing things around your kids that you don’t approve of?

It’s okay, he can wear a dress…

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if a dress is good enough for president roosevelt, it’s good enough for my son!

My son loves playing dress up. He’s almost 2 and his imaginativeness is shining through. He loves wearing hats of all sorts (included plastic buckets, and baskets, and wigs (as we’ve seen before in pictures), capes (made from scarves or other bits of fabric), and sunglasses. I haven’t yet gotten him many other dress-up items, but I think since it’s Halloween time, we will head on over to Value Village soon and pick up a few other play options.

Today, at daycare, when I picked him up, there were many kids digging in the pretend play box. And one little girl had put on this fancy princess dress and was wearing it around. Potamus was so glad to see me, and we did a quick 30 second snuggle, and as I was asking the teachers about his day, one said to me “he wants to wear that dress,” pointing toward the little girl. “He’s always asking to wear it.”

And my response was, “oh, let him wear it. That’s totally fine. He’s at such a sweet age, and playing pretend is good for him. He’s not old enough to be made fun of for wearing a dress, yet.” And they nodded their heads and laughed along with me, since my tone was light and cheery.

But I meant it.

And I have so many swirling thoughts about it all.

The first, is, that this is a phase. That my child loves all things dress up, and I want him to have the full range of exploration imaginable. And my second thought was horrified, not that he would be wearing a dress, but that he had been asking to wear a dress and they hadn’t let him. My baby, unable to play pretend in a way that he has wanted. Which makes me question the underlying foundation of the daycare (which is otherwise doing great), because I’ve been not teaching hard-line male gender stereotypes, and would hate if he was being subtly or not-so-subtly pushed into a certain way of play, at such a tender age. Also, it wasn’t that long ago in history where little boys (up until age 6 even) were dressed in dresses to keep them ‘sexless’ and innocent for as long as possible. Or for fashion or other reasons, like practicality when not wearing a diaper!

But then my thoughts flicked toward the longer term future, at the unknown of what Potamus’s true gender identity will be. Perhaps he’ll embrace traditional male gender stereotypes, or perhaps he’ll be a “boy who loves girl things” like CJ at Raising My Rainbow, or perhaps he’ll tell me that he is actually a she, or that he loves boys, or that he wants to wear rubber boots to school everyday (true story, my friend’s son did that for a good long time). I don’t know, but I will love him no matter, and will encourage him to be who he is, no matter what.

I hadn’t thought about him being pegged into a gender role so soon, and hope that the conversation with his teachers, for the minute, allowed a little more freedom for him to get to experience pretend play as his sweet little toddler self, without the teachers worrying that they might get in trouble for letting him wear a dress. Because, I could see that some parents may  not want their kid to play dress up that way, but I don’t mind. He can wear a dress if he wants to. Or fairy wings. Or a crown. Or a pirate costume. Or a basket on his head.

HELP! Would you have done anything differently in addressing his teachers? How do you handle the play-pretend issue as far as gender norms are concerned? Any experiences having to give teachers instructions on how to interact with your child?