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.

The Reading Life: Bossypants

I took this picture. This is a picture of this book as I physically possess it

Here are some facts I learned from reading Bossypants that heightened my girl crush on Tina Fey.

1.  Tina Fey’s first child, Alice (also a cool, old name, like Child’s), is the same age as my child within weeks.

2.  Tina Fey was also an adult virgin.

3.  She loves Williamsport.  Or I extrapolate that she loves Williamsport in that creepy, fan-person way.

4.  She is a good writer, and smart.

5.  She exhausts herself to a greater degree than I do.

6.  She worries about being a working mom, about being rich person, about having a nanny.

But what else?

What is this book?  Is it a memoir?  Is it a collection of essays? Is it a feminist tome?  Is it just funny?

I mean, yes.  It’s funny.

But that’s really all it is.  It’s not especially challenging or literary.  It does not reveal great truths, and often I found myself kind of both appreciating and getting worn out by Fey’s neurosis.

I enjoyed reading it, yes.  And reading it the same year it was published (by only 2 days, but still), is a luxury indeed.  A luxury I hope to have with more books in the very near future.

It also reminded me why my work with Billtown Blue Lit is so very, very important. More on this after the last heading.

Best Parts

The first third and last eighth were the best.  The first third was about Tina Fey’s childhood and journey through adult virginity and Chicago improv and landing as a writer for SNL.

The last eighth was about her current family, her relationship with motherhood, traveling across PA and OH at the holidays, and whether or not she should have another baby.

Those parts of the book were honest and funny and they made Tina Fey like a real person with whom I would like to have lunch  in ways that are brave for a public figure.

The middle remaining fraction (I am not good at math) had some good jokes, but it was about a world that only about 1,000 (this estimate is based on nothing, the point is it’s a small percentage of the actual population) people in the world will ever encounter: the world of making TV.

I enjoyed making the connections between the stories she tells in the book and episodes of 30Rock, in particular the pee jars.  And I found her pretty constant amazement that she gets to keep making this super smart, weird show to be refreshing and sweet.  It made me think that Tina Fey is humble.

I also particularly enjoyed the chapter about the photo shoot, though it was a little like reading about visiting the Moon.  There is no universe in which I will ever be a Moon-goer.

People who get to write books by popular demand

So Tina Fey is a writer in real life, and that’s the only reason I’ve read this book.  Will I ever read a book by Karadashians or by Snookie?  No.  But Tina Fey is also like Karadashians and Snookie in that she is a public figure who is also a pretty, young (in regular people years) woman.

She wrote the book because her agent or publicist or somebody told her she should.  Because her fans wanted to read it, and because Sarah Palin also wrote a book, and that matters to people who have no powers of logic.

She does improv and writes comedy because that is what feeds her soul.  Is this book soul food for anybody?  I kind of think not.  But I bet it sold more copies in hardcover than the book that’s sitting next to me that I got for Christmas, Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell.  But I bet Blueprints is a way, way better read than Bossypants.  I’ll let you know.

Tina Fey’s book is smart and thoughtful, even though it’s not literary.  I’m counting it as evidence that the world will read better books if somebody bothers to stand up and shriek about them, invite their authors to do interviews and podcasts, and writes blogs about them, and in some future happy land where the literati have a greater societal influence, interview them on The View and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

And that’s the long-term objective of Billtown Blue Lit.  To help the world see books that are smart and literary and feed souls.  The way to do this is with people: a community of people who think this is an important goal.

Come join us.  Invest in your future as a reader, in literary authors, and in the American Literary Canon.

On Being a Slave to Fertility


I got this image from http://www.macmillan.org.uk

In the next few weeks, I will have been fertile for 20 years.

I had my tubes tied earlier this year, and I find I am still highly paranoid about getting pregnant.

In fact, I made myself neurotic over that very thing just a few days ago.

My period was a week late.

I am NEVER late.  I am so regular that I have missed exactly 9 periods my entire life.  Precisely 28 days after giving birth, I bled.  No nursing reprieve for this lady.

But I’m in my 30s now, and I recently (about 3 weeks ago) started exercising at least 4, but often 6-7 times a week.  This is important, because I am too chubby.

This is also important because I have never formally exercised.  I didn’t play sports (I wanted to read books and be in plays), I didn’t go outside and run around (I stayed in and wrote stuff about feeling sorry for myself), but for my late teens and most of my 20s, I waited tables.  If you’ve done that, you know it is usually exercise.

And I am greedy, so I stayed busy.

And now I am greedy for fitness, so when I go work out, I work out hard.  I’m pretty high energy for a fat person.

Anyhow, since I was a week late, I was sure that I am a tubal failure statistic, and I felt pretty sure that I was going to have to get used the idea of  making a second child, even though I’m really happy with just the one–she’s so great, I couldn’t do better.

I am not pregnant.  I started bleeding the same day I took a pregnancy test with negative results.  But really, how can 3 organs that are collectively no larger than a grapefruit, cause so much anguish?

And it occurred to me: We women are all slaves to fertility.

We are pulled by the whims of our hormonal mercury.  We spend at least 2, and some of us are lucky enough to spend 3, weeks a month being either fat, sore, or crazy in anticipation and experience of our menses.

We get to feel “normal” for 5-10 days, then we start all over again.

And those of us whose pieces are broken, who can’t conceive, become wild with the NEED to make life.  We spend massive piles of cash on fertility, or adoption, on tracking ovulation.  We employ the hocus pocus of prayer, faith, pleas to a “just” god all because we want to be mothers.

I have a good friend who went through such rigormarole to make a baby, and when I found myself knocked up at 24, freaked out, in college, and alone, I considered the injustice of our situations.  She is a great mom.  She is the best mom I know of.  In some ways, I wish she was my mom.

I am an adequate mom.  I do my best because I love my kid in a way that makes me believe in god (or some supernatural something), but I didn’t want it.  There are still days when I wish I didn’t have to.

How is it fair that great people who make great parents who WANT babies can’t have them, and schmucks like me make them while taking precautions not to?

Fate?  God?

Bullshit.

Fertility is a cosmic joke, and women are its large, hairy ass.

Making a Poster With Pearl

This right here, this neato thing?  This is what happens when mommy procrastinates, and mommy and Pearl work together to pull off a crazy poster for the Magic Rules poster contest at her school.

The morning the poster was due, the principal made an announcement over the loudspeaker when we arrived at school to make sure we all knew that the poster contest’s deadline was being extended a bit.

On one hand I was vexed.  I was all, “WTF, Mr. Felix?! We worked so hard to get it ready this morning!” but then I thought, “We still would’ve put it off till the due date, who am I kidding?”

Pearl and I spent that morning deciding which magic rule we would illustrate, and Pearl settled on “Using Magic Words” which is apropos because we often remind Pearl to use hers.

We tossed around the idea of making the poster full of words for please, thank you, you’re welcome, and pardon me in English & other languages.  We had a minor, mainstream collection.

Then I was like, “WTF, Mommy!  This is a poster by a six-year-old.”

Then came the hand-tracing and coloring.  This poster was truly a team effort, and it made me thankful about the following things:

1. My groovy work-at-home life, though in some ways extremely stressful, gives me freedom I did not have before to help Pearl with this kind of thing.

2. She’s still willing to accept my help and my input.  I remember reaching a point early on where I did not accept help or input from my mother.

3. My kid seems to be pretty amped up about her education.  She likes going to school and participating in things like this, and she said to me, “Mommy, I think I am going to win.”

Which gave me anxiety of a whole other sort.  “Really?” I thought to myself, “but I used to hate the kids who won the poster contests their parents clearly helped them with.”  But this is 20 + years later, and kids’ parents seem to be a much more meddling bunch than when I was young.  That or they’re absent in really scary ways.  I bet there are a lot of kids whose moms and dads helped them with their posters. Or who didn’t.  And who said life was fair?