Yes, Principal. I do swear in front of my kid. What’s it to you?

Child made these, or most of them.

How is it possible that some time in the very near past, my unbelievably cool child couldn’t even write her own name?

At the present moment, she is so competent that she corrects my pronunciation.  I remember doing this to my mother.  I remember being six, and getting the stick that my mom was some kind of numbskull.

This is not true, of course, but being six and obnoxious, I believed it.

But my mom never told me that she was smarter than I was.  In order to boost my self confidence, she would feign ignorance.  I think she still blames herself for the fact that I thought she was stupid.

I would’ve gotten there anyway, just probably not as young.  I figure, bonus for my mom having a few years to get used to it before things got real bad during the teenage years.

I do tell Child I am smarter than she is.

I also do not censor my language around her too much.  I’ve waffled on this point, but here’s my reasoning.

My own potty mouth (which is considerable, though usually mixed with some money vocab) is a product of my extremely conservative, Christian upbringing, and the fact that while I lean hard on being a pretentious wanker, I have always abhorred open pretension and making people feel stupid just because they haven’t read as many books as I have.

Some sheltered, indoctrinated kids discover booze and sex and go nuts?  Nothing like the nuts I went, and continue to go, on the profane tongue.

I am amused and edified by few things as much as I am by a stream of–especially creatively strewn–four-letter words.  Yes.  I do mean edified.

And using the cussy vernacular gives my social tendrils greater reach.  I am not perceived as a goody-two-shoes, nor as someone who can’t identify with uneducated people.  And, this is the best part: people who are and would be offended by my speech can stay away.

No Words are Bad Words

So my current rationale for swearing in font of Child is that no words are bad, and thinking of words as bad or profane is kind of unhelpful.  The idea that a radio personality can’t say “f*ck” on air is nuts.  What is this? 1500?

Might as f*cking well be.

I mean, I can’t even spell out the f-word on my blog for fear of getting found by a bunch of prawn connoisseurs.  Yes.  I do mean prawn.

Anyhoo, so I’m thinking that m’child will not be so amused as I am by the swear words because she will have grown up hearing them.  Hell, she might even intentionally NOT swear just to be different from me.  Wouldn’t that be a rub.

As it stands, I do not hear my child cuss often.  Usually, if I say, “Oh sh*t.” to myself, she’ll say, “Oh sh*t what, mommy?”

But she hangs out with her Christian grandparents sometimes, and has returned from their house on a number of occasions with the news that “God doesn’t like it when you say, ‘Jesus Christ.’  It hurts his feelings.”

Child was, for a time, saying, “Jesus Christ, Mommy!”

I was, of course, amused by this especially.

But since Grandma’s kibosh, Child doesn’t say that.

What’ll You Do When You Get The Call?

Fella shakes his head at me sort of regularly and says, “You’re going to get a call from the principal.”

Last time he said, “I’ll back you up.  I mean, in theory I agree.”

Answer is, I don’t know.

I’m a total wuss about confrontation.  Though I tend to be less so where Child is concerned.  Last year, at least one time, I marched into the Principal’s office and said, “What’s up with X?”

Probably, I’ll tell Child she has to accept whatever punishment she gets at school, because sometimes the world is different than our ideals, but that she’s not in trouble at home.

And it’s not as if she thinks it’s always all right for kids to swear.  She’s been informed of the differing viewpoints.

Whenever she says something a little off color, Fella or I remind her that it’s okay with us, but that she shouldn’t say those words at school.

Kids these days

The other day, when I picked up Child, her very intense little friend who likes to talk to me ran up to me and began to squeal, “I got him!  I got the boy!”

Later discussion with Child revealed that she and the other girl have a crush on the same older boy, and they don’t know his name.  Child said that she likes his hair and shoes.

“Have you ever talked to him?”

“No.”

“Has your friend?”

“No.”

Honestly, I was sort of appalled by the inherent competitiveness and gloating absurdity of the other child.  My child seemed embarrassed about the whole thing, which was heartening.

Then the other day, we heard one of our neighborhood children shouting, “It’s Aspergers, Bitch!”

I also recently heard some sad stories about kids with drug dealer parents and the mounds of sh*t those children see, have seen, and wade through daily.

Clearly, some children have real problems.

Anybody care to weigh in with their own experience or ideas on the topic?

How do you talk to a six-year-old about grownup stuff? Like So:

My Sugar Bugger.

I know, I know, I promised you I’d write about the YMCA, physical fitness, all of that.  I’ve been making notes on the YMCA post for months.  But it’ll wait.  Because I’ve gotta get this one out.  It’s the kind you like, it’s emotional.  And the Y’s in it.  Sort of.  We had occasion for this conversation because of the Y.

People who know and love us might cry.  I didn’t, but I’ve had six years to deal with the inevitability of this conversation, and I must tell you that it went tons better than I was expecting it to go.

If you’re new to the story or this blog, you can read some of my thoughts about parenthood, some other thoughts about parenthoodChild’s present fake father situation, and the Child: Origins in (lightly) fictionalized form.

So last night, on the way home from the Y, Child was talking about her little friend whose house we passed’s father and mom’s boyfriend.

She got this sad look on her face, and she said, “I wish I had a father.”

I am so accustomed to being able to dodge this conversation that I said, “You do!”

She said, “No.  Fella’s my fake dad.  I mean a real dad.”

“You do have a real dad, Child, but Fella’s way more your dad than he is.”

“Really?!” She was legitimately surprised.  There are some real pleasures in observing childhood, of getting to re-live that naivete, that utter faith that nobody around you is trying to mess with you, be dishonest, or dick you over.  Life pre-awareness-of-sex.

“Yeah, really.”

“Who is he?”

“He’s a guy I knew in college for a while.”

“Were you married?”

“No.  We were just friends.”

“Then how’d you get me?”

“Sometimes that happens.  Sometimes friends get babies together on accident.”  (I was not in a financial position to be on whore pills, but we were using lots of birth control)

“I want him to be my dad.”

“Why?”

“Because Fella yells at me all the time.”

“Your biological dad would yell at you all the time, too.  It’s what parents do.”

“I want to meet him.  Can you call him?”

“I don’t have his phone number, Child. I don’t know if you’ll ever get to meet him.”

“Why not?!”

“Because, Child.  He chose not to meet you.  He said he wasn’t ready for you yet.”

“When will he be ready for me?”

“I don’t know, Sugar bugger.  And anyway, what’s so wrong with Fella?  Doesn’t he play with you?”

“Yes.”

“And hug you?”

“Yes.”

“And buy you stuff?”

“Yes.  But can I tell him?  About my real dad?”

“Sure you can.  He already knows.”

So that’s the way it went.

The bit that surprised me was the, “I want to meet him.” She said it with such certitude and finality.

I’ve heard tell that kids who are adopted or who only know one of their birth parents have some kind of psychic off-kilterness. An adopted friend who had two kids of her own and was married happily looked up her birth mother.  She said it was compulsive.

It’s a real thing, the biological magnetism.

And personally?  I’m totally torn.  I’ve always said that when Child wants to meet her father, I’m absolutely going to help her with that.  But I was expecting it to be at least seven years from now.

I know her biological grandparents would dearly like to be in her life, but out of respect for their son’s arrangement with me, they have not.

And my kid is awesome (of course I think so).  She’s sassy and resilient and really good at not taking things personally.  But she’s six.  I mean, is it fair to say, “Ok, we’re going to meet your father, but we’re not going to live with him, and he’s still not going to be in your life.”?

She’s still hopeful and naive and happy about the world.  I don’t want to invite disillusionment.

Because I’ve also said that if he ever craves involvement, I’ll need him to put his money where his mouth is and pony up with some back child support and some kind of legal accountability before I put my sweet girl in emotional harm’s way.

But again, I was expecting that to happen you know, really any time before she’s officially a grown up.  Or even a teenager.

And here’s the thing.  I have great faith that if child’s bio dad wanted to, he’d be a terrific father.  But he has not had the advantage of six years during which his life is literally upside down, and he doesn’t matter much, and people make ridiculous assumptions about him and his character based on his having a kid on his own.

And even if he had, it’s totally different for men.  Men who are single dads are total heroes. They’re like the Don Juans of the playground benches.  Sisters and moms and strangers bring them casseroles and come pick up their laundry to do.  Women who are single moms?  We’re whores. And if we accept welfare, we’re whores who deserve to be poor, and who are trying to trick Uncle Sam into paying for our Lexuses.  (I would like to posit for the record that the brief times during which I have accepted financial assistance from the state, I would have never been able to afford a Lexus, or even a 1997 Ford Aspire. True story.)

Therefore, I imagine Child’s bio dad to be very similar to the way he was when I knew him, that is to say he is still probably not especially responsible.  And probably still doesn’t like himself terribly well.  And probably still drinks too much.

So even IF I could, with a clear conscience, say, “Okay, Child!  Let’s go!  We’ll find your father this summer!” What kind of can of worms would I be opening?  What are the statistical odds that her life would be better after that?  That it would be worse?

My basis for asking Child’s father to make the same choice that I had to make (100% or 0%) was extremely unscientific, but was that the most rogered up people I’ve ever known are the ones who’ve had here-and-gone-again fathers or mothers.  Who’ve had a consistent stream of rejection in their young lives.  (Also, it seemed unfair to me for him to have to be cool with whatever choice I was making, but that’s a post for another day).

So what are we going to do?  I dunno.  But I’ll keep you posted.

I welcome your input and feedback, but if you’re going to be hateful toward me or toward Child’s bio dad, I thank you in advance for keeping your comments to yourself.

Parenting Chronicles: The First Whatever

Public Domain Image

Maybe you know or have figured out that the man we live with is not my daughter’s biological father.  He looks the part, having fairer hair than I do, and a cherubic head shape like hers.  But trust me when I tell you that’s not why I picked him.

He is part of our family.  And Child, when she forgets herself, calls him dad or parent.  She refers to us as a unit as her parents.  She thinks of him as her dad, tells him she loves him (and means it), kisses him before bed.  The two of them have a man-to-child relationship that sometimes distresses me in its high levels of kinetic energy and loud laughing or squealing, but seems really normal and healthy.

For a while, she was calling him her “male role model” at his suggestion, but she seems to be at a blissfully content stage right now about her understanding of the nature of her family.

She asks every few months about her “fahder.”  I suspect she’ll pronounce it correctly before she’s ready for the uncensored version of the story.

And maybe, when she gets pissed at me about it when she’s a mouthy teenager and writes some sobbing, heartfelt SpaceFace note about not knowing who she is and how I’ve lied to her all these years, I’ll shoot her computer and record it on video for all the world to see, because I’ll be embarrassed at my kid’s indiscretion and that she’s outed me  for having had her under circumstances it’s not safe to discuss with all age groups.

Whenever she asks, I emphasize that it’s important to understand that there’s no “right” way to have a family.  That families have any number of configurations of parents, men, women, grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc.

So I’m kind of delighted to report that Fella had his proper initiation the other day.

Here’s the conversation:

“Mommy, can I watch TV?”

“Is your room clean?” Fella asked.  I love how native he is about this kind of stuff.  

“Is your room clean?” I asked.

“No.”

“Then go do it.” Fella again, and after.  I tend to shut up and bow out, feeling grateful that someone else cares to have these combative conversations.

“I don’t want to right now.  Right now I want to watch TV.  May I please watch TV please?”

“No.  I think mommy and I were talking about going to Target.  Do you want to go to Target?”

“That’s okay.  I’ll stay here and watch TV.”

“Child, you know that’s not how this works.”

“Ok.  Can I buy a toy at Target?”

“No, but you can go get dressed.  And then maybe when we get back, you can spend the whole day cleaning your room.”

Sigh.  Whatever.” And she stomped up the stairs.

I’d wandered out of the room, or to another place in my mind, so I didn’t hear the last bit.  Instead, Fella walked up to me an poked my arm and said, “Hey Girlfriend, did you hear that?  I got the first ‘whatever.'”  And his chest puffed up like he would explode with triumph.

“Ha.  That’s great.”

“Yeah.  You might’ve gotten the first ‘I Hate You,’ but I got the first ‘Whatever.'”

Alive Baby’s Dead Friendship

I robbed this image from anther wordpress blog.

Child is a really sweet kid.  Her birthday’s late summer, so she’s one of the youngest in her class.

Her BFF is one just a few months shy of being a whole year older than she is.

The girls met at Little Lambs, the preschool to which they both went, about 2 years ago.  It’s a great place, even though it’s parochial.  Aside from that I got an incredibly good vibe from the place, it was affordable, and all the other places I visited were scary for one reason or another, my thinking was that knowing stories from the Bible can be a real help when one is writing college papers in literature courses.

When we moved this fall, we moved so we live around the corner from BFF, and Child opted to switch elementary schools from where she went last year so she could go to the same school as BFF.

Our school district lets us pick to an extent.

Child and BFF played together a lot this past summer.  BFF came over to our house a lot of days, and the girls had sleepovers and Child went to the lake with BFF and her family.  They go to each other’s birthday parties and have had a really good friendship.

In a happy twist of fate, Child wound up in the same class as BFF.

And all was beautiful and harmonious until yesterday.

Child said, “I want to play with BFF today.”

Since it’s child appreciation day, and Child will have no homework, I say, “Okay, I’ll text her mom.”

“Yay!”

So I text Mrs. BFF, and she says of course BFF can come play.

I go to pick up Child and I’m herding Mrs. BFF’s kids, too, because she’s going to be a few minutes late.  And I say, “Hey BFF, wanna come over and play at our house for a while?”

BFF says, “No.”

Child immediately starts weeping, but she’s hiding her face in my hip.  BFF does not see her weeping.  My heart breaks a little bit, even though I get it.  I remember.

BFF’s tastes have matured to the point where Child–who is just not mature in any respect–does not interest her anymore.  Sure, if she’s thrust into a situation where she has to play with Child, she will, or if it’s between Child and her brothers.  But she’d rather play with the girls who are those 6-10 months older.

Plus there’s the brutal social stuff: BFF definitely has what it takes to be a cool/popular kid.  Child is sensitive and strange (no surprises there), and I am not the kind of mom who refuses to let her go to school wearing insane things, or who tells her not to be weird.

Maybe that’s a failing as a parent, but the best people I know liked the learning parts of school but could’ve done without the social aspects.

And Child will be better off socially than I was.  They have become insanely aware of bullying and its dangers, and Child is gregarious and funny and coordinated.  I expect that she’ll play some sort of sport, and that’s a social network built in.

She’ll meet new friends and adapt.

But part of me wanted to say, “Hey Mrs. BFF!  Tell BFF she has to play with Child!”  Even though I recognize the myriad problems with such behavior.

On the rest of the way home without BFF, Child alternated between weeping and telling me how BFF won’t play with her at recess anymore.  How BFF plays with M__ and K__, but not with her.

I asked if she knew why, and she said, “she just won’t.”  I’m certain there’s more to the story than I’ll hear.  But still.  Sad, sad stuff.

And it didn’t occur to me until right now that Child’s exceedingly poor behavior last evening may have been a result of this tragedy.  In fact, Child said another thing that saddened and angered me in equal measure.

We were on our way home from Zumba and I told her that she was not allowed to stay up because she was being highly snotty, she said, “Maybe I should just kill myself.”  Which she then tried to deny saying, which is good, I think?  But still.  Caught me totally off gurad.  Rendered me speechless.  Made me angry in ways I was not expecting.

I sent her to bed and did not tuck her in or read her a story. I do not know if that was the right tack, but she was asleep instantly.  And now I will be vigilant.

What kind of six-year-old even suggests suicide?  Is this foreshadowing of dreadful teenaged years to come?  Will I be one of those tragic, 40-something alcoholic moms with a dead kid?

I hope not.  But this is one of those times where having her sperm donor’s input might be helpful.  I think that he felt sad about being alive from a very early age.

He said, when he found out I was pregnant, that he didn’t want to be a father because he always felt like he shouldn’t have been born, and he didn’t want to put another person through that.  Strong words, but felt ones nevertheless.

I was too busy pitying myself at the time to notice how sad that was, but I’ve thought of it often.

Dead Babies 3

Found on facebook & privately emailed to me by a good friend (someone who is, like me, not fond of the whole status repost culture):

“A DADDY isn’t defined as the man who makes the child, but rather the man who extends his hands and time to help with the child’s raising and his heart to love the child through anything!!!! BLOOD doesn’t always make you a DADDY. Being a DADDY comes from the heart… any fool can make a baby, it takes a man to raise a child!”

So in my relationship with my (truly remarkable) partner, I think that buying our house is kind of analogous to getting married.  Hitched up.  We are hitched, together, to our mortgage, to our wet basement, to our attic that has piles of potential.  To our one bathroom, and hand-me-down curtains, and shelves and shelves of books.

And he is genuinely a swell stand-in dad.  We’re still kind of rogered up over semantics.  Pearl, in her highly literal stage of development, has opted not to call him dad, but that’s probably better. While he would absolutely stand for it, he probably prefers the more literal conception of his relationship to Pearl, too.  She calls him his first name, and occasionally “my dad.”

But he’s just so native as a father.  He knows and thinks to do and say stuff that just doesn’t occur to me.  Probably, without him, Child’s manners would be much worse.  She’s totally a sweet kid, but she’s also an only kid, so the world starting and stopping at her whim is an idea to which she is pleasantly accustomed.   Fella demands that she say please and thank you, and his insistence spurs my participation.

Child tells him she loves him, and he says it back.  They hug and cuddle and play.  She watches him play video games, and he helps her learn stuff.  They are sweet together.

Fella and I are people who’ve had our share of inconsiderate, inconsistent, unpleasant friends, lovers, partners.  As such, we’ve been really guarded in the development of our relationship.  My mother would probably cite this guardedness as the reason we are not married, but we agree (mostly) that at this point, marriage is (mostly) unnecessary.  It’s not like we’d file our taxes together anyhow.

Since we bought the house, we have both relaxed somewhat.  I have felt more free to express grumpiness.  He has stopped putting down the toilet seat.  He is more free and liberal with spending his time as he wishes.

I have taken greater pride and effort in the tidiness of our abode, because I feel like it’s going to be mine for a little longer than usual.  My totally unjustified, and usually minor, sense that he is in some way disloyal to me has gone away.  He seems to have stopped believing that I will just disappear one day, too.  We talk about tomorrow, five, and ten years.  Our next house, retirement, etc etc.

His brother’s wife and their kid think of Child as a cousin and me as an aunt.  I find myself thinking of his folks as in-laws, and it certainly felt that way when they came over for dinner last night.  Child was a very responsible and conscientious older cousin.  His mom and dad think our house is neat, and they seemed to be proud.  I hope they are.

Of course there’s still, and always, the possibility that we’ll break up.  It seems less like a foregone conclusion now.  And whenever we joke about it, Child gets up in arms.  She says, “But I don’t want you to break up!”  She loves her life, our house, and her new school.  She is becoming her own person and I am proud of her, of my partner, of our life.