One-Woman Strike

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post titled “Mother’s Day Strike,” which was about taking the day off on Mother’s Day. It was funny and irreverent and total make-believe nonsense.

But last night, after perusing The Facebook and feeling more and more helpless to the hurt and pain and crazy, I started to wonder.

What if I actually did organize a Mother’s Day Strike?

What if I took this symbol of wholesome goodness, synonymous with America and apple pie – the construct of mother – and used it to remind ourselves of the one thing, maybe the only thing, that we can agree upon?

You may be wondering what that one thing is because, goodness knows, it doesn’t look like we can agree upon anything anymore. But according to every mother everywhere, it’s a love for our children.

A love that transcends cultural differences, religion, race, class, and even politics. A love that makes us think hard about the future, a time and place that we will never see but they will live. A love that personalizes every news story, every tragedy, and every tweet.

What would a Mother’s Day Strike look like exactly? I’m not much of a political activist, but here are a few thoughts off the top of my head.

On Mother’s Day, we would take all of our bouquets and gifts and pile them up on the steps of our state capitals. Mountains of flowers and handmade cards from our children would rest at the feet of the democratic institutions that have failed us and them.

Perhaps there would be a few speakers, some arts and crafts for the kids. We may even serve brunch and have a mimosa or three. (I’ll coordinate the SignUpGenius. Dibs on the fruit platter.)

After that, we could take pictures of ourselves with our children and post them to The Facebook and Instagram, tagging each and every one of our state senators and the president with a special message that says, “The Mothers are Watching You.”

Because everyone knows that moms have eyes in the backs of their heads and that is enough to scare grown men, which is exactly what we’re trying to do here. 

Then we’d take to The Twitter and write the same phrase – The Mothers are Watching You – adding in the handles of our elected officials along with a personalized message detailing what, exactly, we’re watching with those eyes in the backs of our heads.

Oh, and I even have a hashtag: #momwatch

For the more radical mamas, we could consider a march, although I’d prefer a sit-in because it is, after all, Mother’s Day. And then we could get arrested, which would be such an act of America turning on itself and its extolled values that we may just get people’s attention.

Arresting mothers on Mother’s Day?!?!

Yes.

Finally, to really bring it home, we’d make t-shirts. Not just your regular t-shirt with “Mother’s Day Strike” emblazoned across the front. Nope, there will be no words. Just pictures. Thousands of pictures of mothers’ faces giving that look.

The one where we stare hard without blinking, slightly raise our eyebrows, and tense every muscle in our face into one big frown. The one that stops everyone in their tracks. The nonverbal message screaming, “I have had enough.”

Because I’ve definitely had enough.

I have had enough of children shooting other children in schools. Receiving email messages from my son’s high school alerting me to the fact that they are practicing a “lock down drill” just like they would, say, announce the school lunch menu.

I have had enough of big business poisoning the air my children breathe, the water my children drink, and the food my children eat. Leaving us to wonder why there are so many new food allergies, cases of “mystery autoimmune diseases,” when they know exactly what they’ve done.

I have had enough of terrified children in jail cells, their mothers – women who are just like you and me – far away. A cruelty that no mother would ever, ever in a million billion years inflict on another.

I have had enough.

Have you?

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 10, 2020. I’m booked in the morning with brunch, but after that, I’m hosting a one-woman strike. Hope to see you there.

Share this with other mothers who have had enough. Or anyone who has a mother. Which is EVERYONE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raising Brave Boys

“It’s a boy!”

Wait. What? Sorry Mr. Doctor Man, but you’re going to have to shove that baby right back up in there because I already have my baby girl’s name picked out and I know what she’s going to look like and she definitely doesn’t have a penis.

That was my response to the birth of my first child. Along with whispering, “Shit,” as they lifted him proudly to my chest. And then, of course, loving him like crazy.

I should have found out the baby’s sex ahead of time, but I thought it would be super-cool to be surprised. I didn’t appreciate how not knowing could turn into believing like I believe in gravity that it was most definitely 100% a girl.

I’m sure a number of factors were involved in my delusion. The most notable being that I believed raising a girl to be a strong woman might be the most important thing I could ever do in my life.

Boy was I wrong (pun intended).

Fast forward a couple of years. I’m at the playground, pushing my son on the swings. Into my hands and then away he goes. In that moment, for the first time, I realized my baby was becoming a little boy who would someday become a man. And just like the motion of the swing, he would pass from my hands into the world.

“What kind of man will you be?” I wondered. And it was then that I understood raising him to be a good man, a brave man, was just as important as raising a girl to be a strong woman.

I just didn’t know how hard it would be. Or how much courage it would take on my part.

Our boys are expected to be strong, which means they are taught to suppress and deny their emotions. The only real emotion they’re allowed (and often encouraged) to express is anger.

Which is like giving them one awful-colored crayon to color with for the rest of their lives.

Schools label our boys for “acting out” in class, even though we know (like, research-has-proven-this-as-a-fact know) that boys need physical activity and interactive learning environments to thrive.

Sit still, be quiet, and pay attention are not boy-friendly expectations. But that’s how most of our schools are set up.

And perhaps worst of all, boys double-dog-dare each other into being more masculine, humiliating each other with accusations of acting “like a girl.” Which simultaneously teaches our boys to view femaleness as weak/bad/dumb/totally inferior.

And that’s not helpful to anyone. Especially women.

So what can we do to raise brave boys?

Boys with a full palette of emotion to express themselves and understand others? Boys who are celebrated for their exuberance and passion, not sent to timeout? Boys who respect girls and later, respect women?

For me, the answer was that I had to be brave myself.

I had to be brave enough to say, “It’s okay to cry,” even though I was so afraid that someday he might be teased for expressing his feelings.

And when he did express his feelings, especially his anger, I had to be brave enough to meet it with compassion instead of punishing him, even though I was so afraid that he might turn into a bully or worse.

I had to be brave enough to advocate for him at school. I volunteered in his classrooms so I could develop a productive relationship with his teachers, all of whom thought he had ADD or a learning disability.

And I taught him to be brave for others, to use the power he has as a male to do good in the world. Especially with his boy peers. He’s defended girls who were called fat, Mexican-American kids who were told they should be deported.

Last year, he stood up in front of a room full of boys and taught them the value of “respect” after they’d made fun of a transgender person.

I no longer wonder what kind of man he will be. While he still has a few more years of his boyhood left, I know.

He will be a brave man because he is a brave boy. And because he has a brave mama.

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Sharing is caring. Send this to a parent who wants to raise a brave boy. Or one who already has. 

Oh, and don’t forget to vote for next week’s topic! I’m posting every Friday and want to write about what most interests you. Survey is below! xoxoako

Masters in Bad*ssery (And Why Every Woman Needs One)

Lots of people get their MBA’s to learn how to run a business for profit.

The Masters in Badassery is similar. Only you substitute “run a business for profit” with “run your life for yourself.”

If the idea of running your life for yourself makes your heart pause because it sounds terrifyingly selfish, I totally get that.

For most women, even basic self-care (sleeping, eating, the occasional mani-pedi) feels like an indulgent self-centered luxury if not an outright act against God.

If the idea of running your life for yourself makes your heart pause because there’s no more room on your “To Do List” for YOU, I totally get that, too.

We have loooong “To Do Lists,” and most of them are other-centered. Adding ourselves may make it combust into flames.

But running your life for yourself is not about whether you’re at the top, middle or bottom of the “To Do List” (where we typically find ourselves). And it’s not about setting fire to the list. (Although wouldn’t that be nice.)

Everything on your “To Do List” – all of it – is your life. There is no magic fairy wand that will make those things go away. And whether you are at the top, middle or bottom isn’t the point.

Rather, it’s about how you “do” your “To Do List,” and by that, I mean instead of having the items on your list run your life, you run them. 

Like a badass.

Here’s how this might look.

Ever been invited to a neighborhood potluck? The one where everyone brings a homemade dish (if they’re a woman) or a bag of tortilla chips (if they’re a man)?

We have one every year in my neighborhood, and I bring a gorgeous fruit pie. That someone else baked. Someone named Whole Foods.

I even put it on a plate and break the crust a little bit.

Bam. Done. Total badassery.

Ever volunteer at your kid’s school? I used to do this every week, which was a complete nightmare.

The commute between my office and the school was double the amount of time I spent volunteering, my daughter sobbed hysterically when I said goodbye, and the kids were so snot-covered that I should have been wearing a hazmat  suit.

The ROI simply didn’t add up.

So now I volunteer to run the Halloween Party, and I do it in such an epic, badass way that I feel absolutely no pressure or guilt to do anything more for the entire year.

I bring in a smoke machine that makes all the kids super-excited and wheezy because apparently it’s better suited for outdoor use or dance clubs than elementary classrooms.

I make a “witches brew” with floaty corpse hands and dry ice. (Cautionary note: Dry ice has been banned from most elementary schools because it burns through children’s esophaguses so you’ll have to sneak it in.)

And I roll in dressed up like Wonder Woman. Which makes me the most awesomest, coolest mom ever.

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Total badassery.

Running your life for yourself looks like figuring out ways to make your life work not just for everyone else, but for you.

Running your life for yourself is something women need to re-learn how to do. And I say re-learn because somewhere between our girlhood and now, we forget how to do this.

If you cannot imagine ever, ever living this way, let me re-introduce you to your twenty year-old self.

Because I bet THAT woman knew how to run her life for herself.

Granted, she didn’t have the same responsibilities and pressures and commitments that you have today. But she still had responsibilities, pressures, and commitments.

They were just different. (And less loud because they didn’t have mouths that talked, begged, or screamed.)

She didn’t succumb to the “right way” to do something because she either didn’t care or she didn’t know any better.

The first step in getting your Masters in Badassery is to remember your twenty year-old self. Like, really remember her.

What would she put on her “To Do List”? And how would she manage the stuff that’s on yours?

Here’s my list:

  1. Make dinner
  2. Attend child’s service club meeting
  3. Buy birthday present for dog
  4. Go to 4th grade Back to School Night

Hmmmm…. What would my 20 year-old self do with that list?

  1. Make dinner  What’s cookin’ Whole Foods?
  2. Attend child’s service club meeting after a glass of wine
  3. Buy birthday present for dog  Here’s an extra scoop of dog food
  4. Go to 4th grade Back to School Night (This stays on the list because how else am I gonna sign up for the Halloween Party?)

Now it’s your turn. Lemme know how it goes.

Sharing is caring. Send this post to a badass girlfriend. She’ll thank you for it.

(Oh! And don’t forget to vote for next week’s topic! I’m posting every Friday now, and I love love love to get your input. Survey is below. xoxoako)

 

Mother’s Day Strike

A few years ago, I had a mental breakdownthrough about Mother’s Day.

We were finishing up Mother’s Day brunch where I’d spent most of the time reminding my kids to please eat with their utensils, to please stop fighting under the table.

I didn’t want people to think I was a horrible mother on Mother’s Day of all days.

Their behaviors were amplified, highlighted, and contrasted with the ideals of being the Perfect Mom.

So by the end of the ordeal, when my husband asked sweetly, “What else do you want to do today?” I slurped down the rest of my mimosa, surveyed the disaster on the table, and said, “You know what? I’m taking the day off.”

“What does that even mean?” he asked in confusion, “Are you saying you don’t want to be with the kids on Mother’s Day?”

“No, that’s not really it, although it’s close,” I replied. “I just don’t want to ‘mother’ on Mother’s Day.” 

We were both aghast. And for a second, I wondered if it was the mimosa(s) talking or a deeper, darker truth that I had denied until now.

Turns out it was both. 

My mimosa-inspired revelation was quite clear. I don’t want to “mother” on Mother’s Day.

I don’t want to go home after brunch and be asked to make lunch when they just ate their body weight in pancakes. They should be good to go until dinner. (Speaking of dinner, I don’t want to make that, either.)

I don’t want to go through the Friday Folder (which I do every Sunday night) to find stuff like *surprise!* next week all the third graders need to dress up like Pilgrims.

(What do Pilgrims even wear? Whatever it is, I guarantee it’s not hanging in my daughter’s closet.)

Or your child has been assigned to bring 23 individually sliced pieces of mango for the “Fun Fruit Party.” (Dear Mrs. Teacher, have you ever sliced a mango? It’s a slippery nightmare involving a knife.)

I don’t want to negotiate how many more minutes my son can play video games. Or how many bites of broccoli he has to eat before he can go back to playing video games.

I don’t want to do any of it.

As much as motherhood is celebrated, it’s a lot of work. And as much as moms love their children, sometimes we need a break. What better day than Mother’s Day?

We don’t labor on Labor Day, so why should we mother on Mother’s Day?

Don’t worry. As I established earlier, I am not a horrible mother on Mother’s Day of all days. 

We still have our traditional celebration in the morning where the kids express their love with handmade cards, my husband his appreciation with flowers.

We still go to brunch where the kids eat like wild animals and I down a half-dozen mimosas.

But then, as soon as someone says, “I’m hungry. What’s for lunch?” I go wherever the day beckons, as long as it’s out the front door of my house.

One year, I went to the office to work. I focused on a project until it was actually done rather than when I needed to take my son to soccer practice.

Another year, I flew out to Florida for a business trip. I settled into my clean hotel room with its perfectly-made bed and watched a movie. All. By. My. Self. (And it was rated R.)

Most times, I just wander around Target. Stores are usually closed on Mother’s Day, but Target has the decency to stay open. They probably make a killing with all the mommies half-buzzed on mimosas.

So to all you Brave Moms, hang up that Perfect Mom apron. Take a day for yourself and hold your own Mother’s Day Strike.

Enjoy the one day out of the year when there is no laundry beckoning you to fold it, no dirty toilets shaming you into cleaning them, no children whining for you to fill their bottomless stomachs.

For one day out of the year, allow yourself to be unbound by time or expectations or anyone else’s agenda except your own.

For one day out of the year, have a Happy Mother’s Day.

 

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On Motherhood (Parental Advisory: Explicit Truth & Inappropriate Musings)

I didn’t want to do this. I really, truly didn’t.

But as Mother’s Day approaches, I feel obligated to share a few perspectives on motherhood, as well as some of my very best dance moves.

Just in case it helps one mother make sense of her experience.

Just one.

Because what I’m about to say (and show you) is probably going to make many more mothers feel confused. Maybe even a bit uncomfortable.

And that’s okay, because I would prefer mothers feel confused and uncomfortable rather than, say, guilty or ashamed (the two emotions most commonly associated with motherhood).

So this post comes with a Parental Advisory for it’s explicit truths, the first of which is this photo of me. Yes, that’s me. I’m on Day 2 of my daughter’s recovery from ankle surgery. The ankle she broke when her older brother/babysitter double-bounced her on the trampoline.


I look as bad as I felt. Which is really bad.

My daugher? Oh, don’t worry. She’s doing great. Much better than her mother, actually. Here’s a picture of her.

And now for the inappropriate musings.

I think motherhood is a lot like climbing Everest, losing your legs to frostbite and wondering,

“That was an amazing experience, but would I do it all again?”

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As I deliberate upon this question, I realize that it is possible to appreciate and critique something. To see beauty while noting its imperfections. To understand that something is good but also has a very dark side.

For example, let’s take Diet Coke.

I love Diet Coke. I’ve been known to drink so much Diet Coke that I shiver with cold. One of the reasons I have a Costco subscription is because I can buy Diet Coke in bulk.

I also know Diet Coke is probably going to give me cancer. Like some newfangled, mysterious cancer that doesn’t exist yet.

Something like ear cancer.

And yet I am still able to enjoy my delicious, bubbly, acidic Diet Coke even though it may very well kill me.

Now I’m not equating motherhood to death by ear cancer. As any mother will tell you, motherhood may make you want to die, but it will not let you.

My point about Diet Coke is simply to reinforce what I said earlier.

It is possible to appreciate and critique something. To see beauty while noting its imperfections. To understand that something is good but also has a very dark side.

For me, that something is motherhood. Because it is hard. Like gut-wrenching, soul-killing hard.

And no one is talking about it in any real way that matters.

I didn’t lose my temper until I had kids. I didn’t drink wine every night until I had kids. I didn’t think I was a horrible person until I had kids.

I’ve done stuff that never shows up in Parents Magazine or the Love and Logic book or the “How To Keep From Killing Your Child” website that unfortunately doesn’t exist. 

I’ve spent time fantasizing about very bad things. Like suggesting they swim the length of the pool without swimmies or play hopscotch in the street or hitchhike home from school.

(My Top 3 Mothering Fears are child drowning, child getting hit by a car, and child being kidnapped. And yet I fantasize about them sometimes.)

Would I climb Everest again? I’m not always sure.

But I’m already up here on top of Everest with no legs. And I’m not sure if I can climb back down, so I wonder if it was worth it.

Especially in the grocery store checkout line when they spill their brrrberry slushy in my purse while reaching for 20 packages of Skittles.

Especially when they fight at the dinner table after I’ve taken the time to actually home-cook a meal, which is a very special occasion that should be treated very specially.

Especially when they say they hate me. 

Especially then.

There is a space that exists in the world of motherhood. A space that is just a little left of center, where we feel all the love our hearts could possibly hold, where we would not hesitate to lay down on railroad tracks for our children.

And yet in that same space, there live emotions like anger and resentment because let’s be honest, who really wants to be run over by a train?

I want to be clear. I love being a mom. I really, truly do. And I am a pretty good mom on most days.

But I’m not a Perfect Mom. And I’ve finally stopped trying.

If you can identify with anything I’ve written in this post, I have some good and bad news for you. The bad news is that you aren’t a Perfect Mom, either.

The good news?

You’re a Brave Mom, and I love you.

xoxoako

PS – In case you haven’t seen this on my Facebook page, I invite you to watch a video of me performing an impromptu dance routine for my daughter. She’s sitting on the toilet, feeling sad because her ankle is broken. I’m trying to cheer her up by making a total fool of myself. Because that’s what Brave Moms do.

PPS – If you know another Brave Mom, share this post with her. Then go get a drink together because you probably need it. 

Brave Enough to Break His Own Heart

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A book once found me as I wandered through Barnes and Noble, bright green and small with a collection of quotes by Cheryl Strayed. Within its pages, I find language for my longings, fears and quietest dreams. text

Yesterday, my son’s heart was broken for the first time and the book gave me this.

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 And so I wrote this.

My heart is outside my body, wrapped within the body of my child, and it broke yesterday. The feeling familiar – a cramp just to the left of my sternum followed by a sinking elevator of sad.

down

down

down

Landing in my stomach and rising back up. Over and over again.

My sweet boy who was so brave to love. I did not know when I birthed him that his pain would become my own. But here he is, broken in love for the first time, and I can do nothing because the pain does not belong to me.

Should I tell him this is just the beginning of the brokenness? He will break again, and he will break others. Such waste and futility, this instinct to love.

Should I tell him even when he marries, the breaking continues? There is no respite in marriage, the breaking is just different. Small fissures if left untended spreading like cracks across a windshield. With time or impact, they can shatter.

Should I tell him when he has a child and puts forth this tender creature into the world with only its skin to protect it, he risks the worst breaking of all? Because here I am, my heart within a heart, broken. It is like no other pain.

Yes, I will tell him these things.

I will tell him this is just the beginning of the brokenness. He will break again, and he will break others. Even though this knowing may cause him to hesitate in love, to step to the side when it comes for him bright and alive.

And I will tell him some loves break more than the heart. I do not wish those loves for him, but there is no way to tell, in that moment of blinding light, which is which. As much as I want him to stand in its path, letting it consume him and lift him and twirl him about, I want him to know what it means to be brave.

Brave enough to break his own heart.

I will tell him to marry, to trust another with the tending of his heart. And to know the responsibility of tending for another’s. When he notices the inevitable cracks, rather than looking around them or hoping they will spread no further, he will be brave enough to explore them. He will trace the cracks with his finger to see where they originated and where they end.

He will show them to his wife and say this is where it hurts. Right here. He will be brave enough to ask for what he needs. And when she does the same, he will know to hear her, to pay attention. Because these cracks can shatter.

As I sit with my heart within a heart, broken, holding him while he weeps, I feel something different. I move into it, exploring this space where a child’s heartbreak calls to a mother’s love.

The feeling familiar – a cramp to the left of my sternum. But it doesn’t descend to my stomach in sadness. It stays centered in my chest. And I wonder.

Can the heart break and love at the same time?

I don’t know yet, but if this proves to be true, I will tell him. I will say that on the path where he stood in the way of love, where he let it consume him and lift him and twirl him about, he may one day have to walk it again, with his heart within a heart. Broken. Holding tight.

I will tell my sweet boy that I am in pain because he is my child. I feel as tender-skinned and helpless as he does. I wish it were only a toy that broke, something I could replace. But he only gets one heart.

And I will tell him to brace himself because there is no other pain like it. And no other love. So he must be brave, so very brave.

Brave enough to break his own heart.

 

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