Quit Beating Around The Bush About Gender Neutral Parenting: Buy Your Son A Pink Dress

Regular readers will know that I write a whole lot about kids and gender. This isn’t really a blog that’s just about that, it’s a blog about families pushing back against harmful norms that isolate and hurt us, norms that have their root in patriarchal and capitalist ideals popularized by the so-called “traditional family” which is more accurately called the nuclear family. But you really can’t push back against that stuff without pushing back against gender roles. And as I’m currently actively engaged in raising a toddler, I have a front row seat to the way that our culture teachers gender roles and norms early, and aggressively.

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I notice stuff, and I write about it.

Recently I published a piece about gender differences in kids’ clothes on a popular parenting site. I don’t read the comments on my work outside of this blog (a practice I encourage all writers to adopt for their own mental health) but I have shared the piece in my own networks, and it’s garnered some discussion. I’ll be honest, I was very nervous publishing it in the first place, because the last time I published a piece about little boys’ clothing I received some “helpful” emails explaining that boys need their clothes to be different in these ways because they’re made of snails and puppy dog tails or whatever. Given that in this newer piece, I admitted to dressing my assigned-male child in “girls'” clothing, and also outright stated that I think these gender differences in how we (as a society) dress kids are harmful… and this is a relatively mainstream audience… I was bracing myself for the worst.

So far it hasn’t come.

What has come, however, is a ton of people thanking me for writing it (you are very welcome) while stating things like “I have two boys, so I haven’t really been in the girls’ section.” Folks were happy to have me name the differences, and to complain about the differences they had noticed, but they weren’t willing (or able) to take it any farther than that. So let me get this out of the way, let me stop inching up to the topic carefully, let me be clear about not just naming the problem, but also talking about how we push back against that problem.

If you are a parent or caregiver to a boy child, or a child who is assumed to be a boy, and you are still picking out/purchasing most of his clothing, I think you should buy him a dress. Make it a pink dress. And I think you should do it today.

Get your son a pink dress.

Why? Because he deserves it. Because little boys are just as deserving of a chance to enjoy a pink frilly dress as little girls are of a chance to enjoy a pair of overalls with a damn train on them. Because our sons are going to grow up in a world that repeatedly tells them not to be tender, not to be kind, not to be sensitive and if we don’t give them a different message no one fucking will. Because if it turns out that you’re wrong about your kids gender, and in two years they realize that they’re trans, it’s gonna be a whole lot easier for everybody if they don’t get the idea of that dresses are off limits. Because most gender nonconforming kids have to beg their parents for the clothes they want, and it shouldn’t be that way, and you know it. Because the very idea that it is somehow shameful for a boy to wear a dress is misogynist as fuck. And he’ll never know that he’s allowed to wear dresses if you don’t show him that.

Kids are smart. Kids are learning all the time. They are internalizing the messages they see all around them. And unless you are raising your child as a nudist, they clothing you put your kids in affects the way they see themselves. This stuff matters. And little boys growing up with no actual exposure to feminine things directly contributes to them seeing little girls as “other” at a very young age. They are internalizing both the subtle and overt messages they are getting from the world that tell them that girl stuff is not for them, and girl stuff is not for them because they are better than girls.

I’m fairly femme. I love wearing dresses and skirts, I find them to be in many ways more comfortable and freeing than pants. I like that they come in fancy and girly options. I like that they’re pretty. I like the way they feel on my body. And I know, as a person who wears both pants and skirts, that the experience of wearing a skirt is totally different — even just on a physical level — than that of wearing pants.

How are little boys ever going to be able to relate to little girls if they don’t even know how different this most basic experience — wearing clothes — is for them? And little boys not being able to relate to little girls is a problem. We know it’s a problem. We know it contributes to adult men dehumanizing adult women. We know that the vast majority of children’s media features white, male, cisgender, able-bodied, assumed straight, protagonists, and kids who fit that description get used to thinking of themselves as normal and everyone else as abnormal. Men get so used to living in this intense bubble of privilege that if it is threatened even a a tiny bit, they often freak out. Some of them freak out to the point of supporting fascism.

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There’s lots of things we parents can do about that (talk to your kids about oppression today please!) but one of them is to put your little boy in a dress. If it turns out he’s cisgender and incredibly butch, and he hates dresses and doesn’t want to wear them, he’ll tell you when he knows that! Putting your son in a dress is not forcing him into anything anymore than putting him in pants is forcing him into anything, and if he doesn’t like dresses, you can add it to the long list of stuff that you shrug about and say “we tried it, it wasn’t for him.”

If you’re short on cash, you can find a dress at your local thrift store, or even just make a point to reach out to moms of girls and let them know you’re open to receiving more feminine hand-me-downs.

If you are worried about your kids safety, you can put him in the dress on a day you know he’ll be home all day.

If it makes you uncomfortable, good. That feeling you feel right now is you coming face to face with your own internalized misogyny and cissexism. It feels bad! Confronting it is important, and it’s good for you, and any kids you have. You’re slightly squicked out feeling is understandable, given our culture, but it’s also yours to deal with. It is not fair to make that your child’s responsibility, and it is definitely not fair to deprive your child of things that he may turn out to love just because you don’t want to deal with your shit.

Little boys are missing out on all kinds of really great shit, like the color pink, and hearts, and how cool it feels to spin around in a floofy skirt, and understanding that women and girls are also human beings. And it’s not fair, and they deserve better.

You can start small. It’s just one dress! You don’t have to tell your great aunts about it if you know they’ll freak. But you have to start. If you believe in equality, if you believe that you’d be cool with it if your kid told you they were trans, if you believe women’s rights are important, this is your path.

Do it today. Buy your son a damn dress.

 

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I’m More Than A Mother, I’m A…. What?

This is a post about identity. This is a post I don’t really want to write.

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When I was in High School, I had this really cool art teacher. But there was another art teacher, not necessarily cooler, but younger, who used the next classroom over. She had a free period while I was in my studio art class, and a friend of mine and I used to chat with her while we were working (or procrastinating). She was in her twenties, she had a live-in boyfriend, she only taught part time so she would have time for her work. She was a feminist. She was incredibly interesting to me, as a seventeen year old artist stuck in the suburbs and unsure what was coming next. We talked a lot. One day, I don’t remember why, I told her that I had always known that I wanted to have kids, to be a mother. At the time, I considered it to be something like my second calling. I believed in fate, and I believed that I was put on this earth to make incredible artwork, and also to mother.

“Yeah but, is that really want you want, or is it just what you’ve been told you want your entire life?”

The question was like a blow. I felt insulted, I felt like my own sense of myself was being challenged. Suddenly, this woman who I had respected was under fire in my mind. Who the hell was she? She didn’t know me. She didn’t know who I was, she didn’t know what I wanted. Just because some people caved to social pressures and did things just because others told them to, that didn’t mean that was me. But it was actually a worthy question. Children, especially children who are assigned female at birth, are told so much about what to expect of our lives. The things we are told shape our perceptions (duh) and affect what we want, or what we allow ourselves to want. It is so much easier to choose from the approved list, after all.

But I really, really, wanted to be a mom.

***

Recently, chatting with a friend who is at a different point in her journey toward parenthood, I shared a piece of information that feels very basic to me, so basic that I forget it is surprising for others.

“I’d been dreaming about, and sometimes planning for, getting pregnant for about ten years before it actually happened.”

“Wow, really?”

If you do the math in your head, that would put me at the tender age of nineteen the first time I thought, “you know, maybe I should have a baby soon?” But in all honesty, it may have been earlier than that. I was always in a hurry, I always considered the fact that I had to wait to have kids to be supremely unfair. Have you ever known something in your bones? In my bones, I knew that I was supposed to be a mom. When I was twenty three, I got a cat and joked with my friends that it was “the only way to put off having a baby.” But it wasn’t actually a joke, the joke was that I was pretending it was a joke. When I was twenty four I started researching sperm banks. My mom had had my older sister when she was twenty one, in my mind, I had already fallen behind.

I spent all of my twenties dreaming about motherhood, hoping and wishing and praying that it might be just around the corner. When I met my wife I said, “just so you know, I probably can’t get involved in anything very serious right now, I’m saving up to get pregnant this year.” A friend, when he was something like nineteen, introduce me (age twenty five) to his mother as “mom, this is Katherine, she’s my Detroit mom.” It was clear what he was saying, “this is the person who takes care of me when you can’t do it.” Maybe I should have been embarrassed, but I found that I was beaming. I wanted to be a mother so badly it was like a fire, consuming me.

Then, at twenty nine, I got pregnant.

***

This is a post about identity. This is a post I do not want to write. I don’t want to say the words, because they feel cliche and weak and stupid. I am sitting at my laptop, in my livingroom, and the livingroom is so utterly and completely filled with toys and kids’ books that it looks like a tiny daycare center. The baby is napping upstairs as I write this. Next to me on the couch, on one side, is a massive pile of baby socks, yet to be paired and put in his drawer. On the other side is the sleep sack he wears to bed at night when it’s cold. I just remembered I have to switch a load of laundry over. But I am sitting down to write this.

I want to be more than just a mom, goddamnit!

A few weeks ago, there were some silly little things going around facebook, those copy-paste statuses. “Comment and I’ll tell you something I admire about you!” one said, “Give me a compliment and I’ll compliment you back!” another offered. And I bit. It seemed like it was maybe a little cheesy, but hey, anything that gets us to lift each other up, right? There’s been dark times lately, we could use a little joy, a little reflection on the parts of us that are good. Maybe it was contrived, but maybe it would also be worth it?

I waited for the compliments to roll in.

“You’re such a good mom!”

“You’re such a good mom!”

“You’re such a good mom!”

And I felt the metaphorical wind entirely leave my metaphorical sails.

***

Look, it’s not as though I don’t want to be a good mom! I am, by definition, a mom, I am mothering as we fucking speak (we’re not actually speaking, I’m writing a blog post and you, in the future, are reading it, whatever) and if I’m going to be a mom, a “good one” is certainly the kind I want to be. I like doing things well. And also, my child is a person, and a person who matters, and so doing well at raising him seems like a thing that matters. Obviously, I’m gonna show up for him, I’m going to try my best.

But there is something profoundly lonely and isolating about knowing that, first and foremost, everyone sees me as a mother. The rest of my personality, the rest of my many titles and roles, are entirely eclipsed by my relationship to this one, individual, solitary, person. He claws at my skirts when I leave the room. He spits my own breast milk out of his mouth and onto my shirt and then laughs at me. He, well not really he but more the fact that he exists, rules almost every waking second of almost every day of my life. And the people who know me, the people who are outside of that relationship, that is all they see of me. Anything else that I was or am — wife, lover, artist, friend, daughter, sister, faggot, story-teller, cat lady, slob — is rendered invisible by the heavy weight of motherhood.

It’s ridiculous for me to resent it. After all, this is me we’re talking about. For a decade I pined for motherhood. I craved it the way I crave sweets. I knew it was an important part of me, a part of my identity that was yet to manifest in the physical world, for a decade it was just out of my reach. I was so excited for it! I knew that once I could attain it, I would be whole and complete, everything in the world that I was meant to be.

But that’s just it. Motherhood was never the end for me, it was the beginning. It was never a singular identity, it was one of many. What I craved was a rich, full, and complicated life, in which I had a child or children. I wanted to be a mother yes, but not just a mother.

And, in some ways, I’m not just a mother. Since my child was born, I have built, for the first time in my life, something like a career for myself. I’m a writer, I write words for a living. Once, I applied for a regular contributor position (which I didn’t get, but no matter) and the editor responded with “oh, I’m very familiar with your work.” I have work. In fact, I work my ass off. I happen, however, to write a lot (though not exclusively) about parenting. Writing about parenting, especially if you are a mother, is seen as a hobby, a side-hustle, not real writing, something us moms do on the side. I have a blog that is at least in large part about having a child.

I’m in a livingroom fucking covered in toys.

So I can see why “mom” might be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of me. I’m not doing a whole lot over here to give you much else to work with, I realize. Maybe it’s fool-hearty in the extreme to whine about people only seeing me as a mother when I am constantly performing motherhood. Maybe in part I’ve thrown myself headlong into parenting because I wanted it for so very long, maybe it’s because the odds are very good that I will have only one child and I want to mother the crap out of him. I don’t know. I feel embarrassed to even be talking about it.

But I’m more than just a mother, I’m also something else, something else I don’t have time to think about right now because the baby is going to wake up soon and I have about three thousand things to do first.

Going Out, Staying In

On Monday morning, when I am bleary eyed and exhausted, and I check facebook way before I’ve had my coffee, I see the notification.

You have 17 events this week with Chet Clover and 53 other friends.

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This isn’t exceptional. I’m not particularly popular, we just happen to be a part of a community that’s always doing things. There’s a show, a fundraiser, a potluck, a party, an art opening, a community meeting… it’s endless. And almost all of them are scheduled for approximately our baby’s bedtime. So just like every week, I laugh. Sometimes, I genuinely find it funny (ha ha I’m not going to any of these ha ha!) and sometimes it’s the laughing you do to keep from crying.

This week, it’s the second one.

This week, I miss going to things and seeing people.

***

We tend to talk about American parents in this particular way. Parenting takes over your whole life, parenting is boring, parenting is all soccer games and no bar trips and rock shows. Especially for young white middle class Americans, there’s an assumption that life before parenting means going out and having fun, and life after parenting means staying in and being painfully boring. And we see this as a lifestyle issue. Parents would rather talk about dirty diapers than have a good time, what the hell is wrong with them?

I certainly wasn’t immune to this way of thinking.

Before having a child, my wife and I talked about the things we liked about our life. We talked about what having a kid would add to it, and what having a kid just might take away. We agreed that while we were committed to parenting, we were also committed to self-care, to continuing to be ourselves, and to not dropping out of our community. We’d find a way to make it work. Whatever was going to happen, we assured ourselves that we wouldn’t end up like those parents. You know who those parents are! You used to see them all the time, they used to be so involved, then they went and had kids and now it’s like they don’t even care about you. I mean what is their problem?

Their problem might be capitalism.

***

As I get older, I notice more and more that so much of the “lifestyle differences” that we pretend are about preference or ideals are really about class and money. Almost a decade ago now, I dated a young man who came from an affluent background. Whereas I went to high school in an area where most people had more money than my family, he went to high school in an area where most people had less money than his family. He was, apparently, picked on and mocked for being “the rich kid.”

He firmly believed that being mocked for being “the rich kid” was just as bad as being mocked for being “the poor kid.” As though being rich and being poor were equal things, just different, as though the very concept of wealth and poverty wasn’t based on inequality in the first place. When I tried to explain that even if rich kids and poor kids experienced the same exact hatred from “middle class” peers… rich kids still get to go home to a life of privilege and comfort… he dug his heals in. In retrospect, I should have probably broken up with him then.

It’s comfortable to assume that many differences from person to person, from family to family, are just personal choices. The thing is, that assumptions rests on the idea that everyone has the same choices. And we know that they don’t. We know that, despite what we are told, not everyone has the opportunity to go to college. Not everyone can buy a new couch if they want to. Not everyone can run a marathon. Not everyone can pack up and move. We are divided by circumstances and privileges, not only class but raise, gender, orientation, ability, location, etc. Some things we get to pick. Other things are chosen for us.

Before I had a kid, I used to assume that when parents stayed home all the damn time, it was because they had lost interest in everything else. I assumed it was a lack of effort. When parent friends said “finding a babysitter is so hard” I thought, “well, sure, that’s why you have to try hard and plan ahead!”

I was an asshole and an idiot.

Finding a babysitter is hard even if you can afford one. But for many of us, we can’t. For some of us, it’s basically impossible.

Continuing to “have a life” with a baby or small child requires resources. It requires time and energy and money, things than many parents of young kiddos are seriously lacking. It stops being a matter of lifestyle and preferences and starts being a matter of survival. My wife and I both work. I work from home, sometimes late into the night to get enough done to keep us on top of our bills. Freelancing allows me to work and avoid the cost of childcare, which allowed us to move into a house that we don’t hate, which is great! But it also means that for me, time is money in a very direct way. And I have to prioritize money, because we live in a capitalist society and money is what we use to pay for things like food, or heat. Sometimes, when I say “I don’t have time to hang out” it’s really not that I’m being a boring parent-type who’d rather stay home folding those adorable little baby pants. Sometimes, it’s that taking time to spend with friends, any time, feels like taking food out of my child’s mouth. It feels that way because it kind of is.

These are uncomfortable things to think about.

And most of the time I don’t complain (well, I complain to my wifespouse, but I don’t complain like this). Most of the time I shrug and remind myself that I chose this life. I chose to become a parent, I chose to become a parent knowing I was broke, knowing it would be difficult, knowing it would mean sacrifices.

But this week? This week it is too much. I’m sick and tired of staying in each and every time something is going on, of missing literally everything, and of wondering what people think about me for that. I’m sick of being congratulated when I do make it out, like it’s some kind of personal accomplishment when really I just happened to get lucky.

And this part is uncomfortable.

But I’m sick of people telling me how wonderful they think my family is, how brave they think I am for having a child, how great a mother they think I am, and never offering any help. Obviously, some people have and do offer help and we are immensely grateful. This isn’t about that. This is about the number of childfree people who say they support parents and families, but when it comes to engaging with that in their own communities, they act like libertarians. This is not articulate. I am not articulating this well, and I am not articulating it well because I am hurting.

What I know is that, before I had a kid, I saw friends with kids begging for babysitters on social media. And sometimes I responded and other times I didn’t. And lots of times I felt like I was too busy, too busy to take on anything else, busy the same way everyone was busy.

But your parent friends? We aren’t busy the way “everyone” is busy. We aren’t busy because of the glorification of busy in our society. We are busy in a totally unique, totally bone crushing way. We are busy in a way that you cannot even imagine, or at least that I could not imagine before I did it. And we only have one child. We have neighbors with five children. That is so many children.

And if you believe that families shouldn’t live in nuclear isolation. And you believe that capitalism is crap. And you believe that we should be sharing the load to make the world more like the one you’d like to see…. then you need to stop excluding families with kids from that equation.

***

There were three events I wanted to go to this week. I begged for babysitters on social media. No one responded. I downgraded it to just one event, I’d like to go to this one thing for once in my life, would someone please just watch netflix in my livingroom while my child sleeps for three hours?

“I sure hope you find somebody!”

I guess I’ll see you all in eighteen years.

Hello I Am Here To Write About Breastfeeding Thank You

Yesterday morning, I posted a rant about breastfeeding on Facebook. I was complaining. I like to complain. I’m often annoyed in life, and for some reason (probably how well adjusted I am) I derive a real satisfaction from sharing that annoyance with others. Especially if other people find it humorous or relatable. Look at me, I’m connecting with people!

I can really see how the nursing habits of SOME toddlers might convince people that self weaning is a myth and OMG what if you are nursing this kid until he goes to college?

Just another day, just another exhausted mother lifting up her shirt every ten minutes because when she does the calculous of “if the too tired to nurse feeling more or less strong than the too tired to listen to the baby scream?” she can’t actually finish the math because the baby is too loud and she will actually do anything to make it stop. Just another LOLSOB moment to share with friends because hey at least you can use the internet on your phone while you’re nursing, right? I mean, until the kid kicks it out of your hand and across the room, and then kicks you in the neck, and then starts laughing.

I actually really love breastfeeding. I love it a lot, I love it so much I’m maybe embarrassed to talk about that.

But it turns out I complain about breastfeeding kind of a lot.

It also turns out that this week is World Breastfeeding Week.

***

When I was in the hospital, after my child was cut out of my body by a stranger who forgot him immediately, an army of lactation consultants helped us learn how to get him fed. My wife slept on the little sofa in the room and changed almost all of the diapers (we didn’t ask for permission for this arrangement, it simply was) and I slept in the hospital bed and continued to try to put boob and baby together. I didn’t love being in the hospital, but I was grateful for the support, grateful for expert hands that pushed my nipple into my kid’s mouth while I was still confused about getting the angle right and treating him like he was made of glass.

I was exhausted from the long labor and the birth and the drugs, and they were concerned that I was nursing enough, and for long enough. Their faces blur together in my mind now, but I can hear them saying “at least ten minutes on each side” over and over and over again.

At some point, we had what I considered to be a really successful nursing session. I proudly told that next lactation consultant to grab my breast that our last nursing session had lasted way more than ten minutes on each side! “It was more like twenty on the one side, honestly it might have been longer.”

“Oh no.” she was suddenly stern, “that’s too long.”

I felt like it was probably fine, and the next lactation consultant in the army confirmed that it was probably fine. But it turned out to be foreshadowing, in a kind of way. Because my child eats a lot. He eats a lot, he eats often, and he eats for long stretches. And sure, it’s varied throughout his life, but more or less, it’s always been this way.

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***

Breastfeeding, or chestfeeding, as many nursing transgender and gender nonconforming people prefer, is a choice. It isn’t a choice everyone has the luxury and privilege of making, especially here in the States where crappy parental leave policies and hostile work places often make it a non-option. Paradoxically, in other parts of the world, lack of access to clean water and formula makes it a choice many don’t have the luxury of making as well, just in the other direction. But for me, and for many others, breastfeeding is a choice. It should be a choice. No one should be required to do something with their own body that they don’t consent to, and my friends who have chosen to feed formula instead are every bit as wonderful of parents as those of us who feed our children from our own bodies.

It’s also a choice that’s highly politicized.

Other people have written about this before, have written about this better than I will and better than I ever could.

On the one hand, we have the constant “breast is best” rhetoric and the constant pressure birthing parents face to breastfeeding. On the other hand, we have basically zero institutional or cultural support for breastfeeding parents. When a parent chooses not to breastfeed (often because they have to work and they have the choice ripped from them, or because our culture has shamed them so deeply for the crime of having a body that they feel self conscious and gross feeding their own child) our culture cleverly deflects attention from the real problem (that is, our culture) and tells us instead that we have to support that parent’s choice to formula feed and if we don’t, we’re perpetuating the literal worst thing in the universe: Mommy Wars.

It isn’t individual parents who decide, for whatever reason, that formula is the better option, that I have a problem with.

It’s formula companies pushing the stuff on exhausted new parents. It’s policies that make it almost impossible to not formula feed. It’s an entire culture that, despite the breast is best rhetoric, continues to normalize formula feeding and treat breastfeeding as bizarre and animalistic. It’s the fact that I would breastfeed almost anywhere, except the city bus because I’m afraid that a dude might actually grab my tit if I try it.

I live in a culture that wants me to breastfeed, but really only if I can manage to do it without having breasts or drawing attention to them.

***

So like I said, I like to complain.

The first time I complained about breastfeeding, I was immediately advised to just do it less. I was told that if I just limited my infant’s nursing, he would “figure it out” and nurse more efficiently when he had the chance. The idea of asking a really young baby, who just wanted to eat and snuggle and feel safe, to just “figure it out” seemed weird to me and unnecessarily hostile. When I told my spouse that, she pointed out that the person was likely just responding to the fact that I was complaining. I seemed bothered by the amount of breastfeeding I was doing, and this person was merely offering a helpful suggestion.

So it goes, basically.

My kid, who has always loved to nurse, occasionally goes through a growth spurt or a bout of teething (thank your lucky stars you can’t remember growing molars, friends) and then he nurses even more. And there I am, bending down to give him a hug and instead he rips open my shirt. And so I complain. Of course I complain. If he’s nursing every three hours when he’s distracted, every two hours on average, and then it suddenly jumps to every half hour or really just as often as he can get it…. that’s overwhelming. And when I tell people about it, their eyebrows raise.

And someone is always there to remind me that I have a choice. I could choose to nurse less. I could choose to say no.

Honestly, sometimes I have appreciated these reminders.

But I know what my choices are. If I was looking to nurse less, I would just do that. If I was at the end of my rope and needing to wean, I would just do that. I’m not there. Where I am, though, is really really freaking tired, and needing space to be honest about how hard this is, sometimes.

And I do make choices. I make the choice to continue nursing. I make the choice to continue nursing on demand, without a schedule. And sometimes I make the choice to say “not now” and “not yet.” I made the choice, months ago, to cut down his night feedings considerably, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. And I make the choice, I make the choice every single day, to continue a nursing relationship that is sometimes hard, sometimes complicated. As he gets older, as he becomes more and more of a toddler, I make that choice knowing full well that it is not always going to be considered normal, not always going to be supported.

So I don’t, necessarily, always need to be reminded that I could be making another choice.

***

I complain about breastfeeding, but I actually really like it. I find myself talking about how much I like it less, maybe less than I should. Partly, I think, it’s because I’m embarrassed about it… our culture asks that we breastfeed without drawing attention to our breasts, it asks that we breastfeed for nutritional and health related purposes exclusively and never acknowledge that nursing is complicated and emotional and social. But partly it’s just me. I’ve always found it easier to gripe about what’s wrong than to talk about what’s right. Who wants to talk about how lovely the world is? It’s boring.

***

I adore nursing my child. There’s very little I can say about it that won’t sound cliche and flowery and stupid. There’s very little I can say about it that won’t just be more of the same, more of what you’ve already heard.

But this is the thing.

I adore breastfeeding so much that I am choosing to persevere through a very week of nursing. I adore it so much that despite how trying it is, I still feel incredibly lucky and privileged that this is the problem that I have. I adore it so much that even when he’s begging to nurse for the third time in one hour, sometimes I still laugh, and smile, and say “oh just come here, sweet baby!” and I roll my eyes while I do it but I secretly feel like a superhero. And I am overwhelmed with emotion. I am overwhelmed with tiredness, too, and thirst. But I am overwhelmed with emotion. The feeling that I know, deeply and completely, that he is getting all that he needs. If we are out and I forgot to pack a snack or a drink for him, I know he isn’t screwed. And I know he’s happy.

I know he’s happy because he smiles at me, he hums, he laughs.

***

Breastfeeding is a choice. It is a choice I am making every single day. Some days, it is a choice I am making fifteen or more times a day. It is a choice I am sometimes making joyfully, sometimes despondently, sometimes ambivalently. But it is still a choice that I am making, and in that, I am lucky.

The goal, to my mind, of breastfeeding advocacy is to make this choice available to everyone. They may have perfectly good reasons to choose something else, and that’s fine, but I want them to have that same opportunity to make a decision that I had, and continue to have. In order to do that, we have to stop passing the buck. We have to hold institutions, employers, our government, and our culture, accountable for their massive role in taking away that choice.

When a new mom says she isn’t breastfeeding because her work won’t allow her space to pump, we need to recognize that she isn’t really being given a choice and advocate for her. Rather than trying to pressure new parents into “choosing” the right think (AKA breast is best) we need to be working our asses off to make sure they have the same choices I do.

 

 

The Deal With Dads

Ha ha ha, fathers, amirite? They’re completely incompetent buffoons who have no idea how to care for children, and are totally incapable of learning! It’s not their fault, poor souls, they’re trying! They’re just helpless when it comes to dressing, feeding, and otherwise nurturing the children they help create. This is why mothers have to do everything forever, the end.

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If that sounds sexist and ridiculous to you, it’s because it is.

It is also an idea I run into a lot in the wide world of parenting, and an idea with some pretty serious consequences for all involved.

Check out this piece from Scary Mommy. On the surface, it’s just one of those cutesy write-ups about a funny moment in the world of having a kid. A parent out there in parenting land had a funny moment, shared it on social media, and now we all get to laugh along because haven’t we all had some funny moments? It’s a little bit of relief from the exhaustion and the constant pressure that parenting very young children can entail. Look, we’re all laughing together!

Except, the buoyant laughter is hiding the sinister underbelly of gender roles, sexism, misogyny, and patriarchy.

If you didn’t click the link (hey, I don’t blame you) the story is this: a father was tasked with dressing his infant daughter for daycare, and sent her in overalls without a shirt underneath. When the mother texts him about it, he explains that he dressed her in “that thing” and that he was ignorant to the tradition of wearing shirts with overalls. The mother is, understandably, exasperated and amused, and shares the text exchange. In the comments, other parents (all mothers) share related stories of their co-parents (all fathers) making hilarious wardrobe mistakes. One dad dressed his child in a robe meant for a stuffed Yoda doll, another in clothing from the Build-a-Bear Workshop (clothing which included a tail hole).

The joke, in all of this, is not just that it’s kind of funny that all these kids went out in public in truly ridiculous get-ups. It is kind of funny! The joke is that this happened because they were dressed by their fathers. And fathers, it seems, may be great at playtime and taking the kids for ice cream, but they just don’t know about clothes. These types of stories are shared by mothers (in heterosexual relationships) and the conclusion is that women are just plain superior at this whole parenting thing. On the surface it can look like (and feel like, to the women involved) these kinds of jokes hold mothers up and recognize their greatness. But none of this is actually uplifting to mothers, because it’s firmly couched in benevolent sexism.

Benevolent sexism, in case you are unaware, is sexism that sounds like it’s saying positive things about women, but ultimately is used to subjugate women and enforce strict gender roles. The first time I heard the term was while reading this series about Christian dating books (content note for discussion of rape and sexual violence at the link!). Benevolent sexism can be just as dangerous and harmful as hostile sexism, and men who believe in benevolent sexist ideas often quickly turn hostile when women don’t stay in their place.

I can’t say this enough, “traditional” gender roles hurt people. Especially when children are involved, they are just one more method to maintain the set up of the nuclear family. The nuclear family was created by and for capitalism and patriarchy, and that is all it is good for. Nuclear families keep us isolated, they keep us overworked, they keep us from meaningful connection even within the family unit, and they keep us functioning as consumers in wider society.

A joke that sounds like it’s taking a cheap jab at men (haha, they can’t even dress their babies!) is, once we scratch the surface, just plain old patriarchy all the way down.

Men can’t dress their babies, therefore women have to dress the babies, therefore women are constantly consumed with childcare, therefore women cannot access other meaningful work.

Men can’t dress their babies, therefore men are only suitable as providers, therefore men must provide and women must do all the caring and nurturing.

In the original “joke” that we started with, the baby was being dropped off at daycare by her father. That, to me, strongly implies that both parents work outside the home, possibly both work full time. Yet, it also implies that the father is not used to dressing the baby, that it is somehow the mothers jurisdiction. If both parents work outside of the home, for roughly the same amount of hours, one might expect that they would divide up the childcare and household tasks more or less evenly. Yet this is almost never how it happens. In heterosexual marriages, we see again and again that women who work are also expected to fully manage the children and the household whenever they are home. We’ve taken the original nuclear family model, and altered it slightly to include women making an income, only we don’t see men picking up the slack at home. Instead, women are told to strive to “have it all” and men maintain more or less the same breadwinner role they would have enjoyed in a nuclear family without a working spouse. And in the comments on that “joke” we see several mothers supporting this by essentially saying “see, this is why I don’t let my husband dress the baby anymore.”

And on top of all of that, it’s also just plain unfair to fathers. Fathers are human beings who are actually, contrary to popular belief, fully capable of caring for children. They are capable of learning how to change diapers and how to dress a child and all of the other things one needs to know. They may start out a little bit behind, because those of us who were raised as girls in the world were encouraged early to take an interest in nurturing and care-taking, whereas our male counterparts often weren’t (and in some cases it was even actively discouraged). But they can catch up! I can think of several fathers (some of them live within walking distance of me) who are every bit as full and active of parents as their female co-parents. It isn’t fair to them, or anyone else, to pretend like dads can’t do this stuff.

So maybe that guy confused a pair of overalls with a romper, so what? Was it a stupid mistake? Sure. But it’s not something innate, and it has nothing to do with the gender of the parent who screwed up.

And by the by, these ideas aren’t only used to subjugate heterosexual women! This idea that men parent exclusively one way, and women parent exclusively another way, has been used on the far right to condemn families like mine for years. In fact, during the endless debates about whether or not marriages like mine should even be allowed, some of these ideas were brought up as evidence in court. And years and years ago, someone who knew very well that I was gay, literally said the following to me:

“You’re going to get married before you have kid, right? Because don’t you think all children need a mother and a father?”

The subtext being, of course, that men and women vary so much in their parenting styles and abilities that I, a gay woman, should marry a man for the good of my future offspring.

But children don’t need a mother and a father. Children need parents who care enough about them to learn how to get them dressed in the morning.

Songs About Poop That’ll Make You Cry

A deep dive into Kimya Dawson’s 2007 kids’ album, Alphabutt

 

Hello! I’ve been burning the candle at like, twelve ends lately. Which is extra bad because candles actually only have two of those. Like, I’ve been literally working to the point of making myself sick, and so I’m behind on things. And on of the things I’m behind on is this blog. And I’m sorry. You’re all wonderful, and this is some of my favorite writing to do in the world and this is mostly where I want to hang out all the time. As the Unicorn awkwardly says to a sweaty, swearing, Molly Grue in The Last Unicorn, I’m here now.

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So let’s talk about kid’ music!

We mostly don’t listen to kids’ music in our house? I mean, children’s stuff can be ok, even good, but it tends to get grating after awhile. And we mostly feel like really young kids, just like anyone else, like the music they’re exposed to. So rather than starting our baby out with a bunch of kiddie tunes, we play him stuff that we like, and if he’s into it we’re into that, and if he’s not we turn it off. It’s a win-win, really. My kid gets to rock out to Kanye, and I never have to listen to The Wheels On The Bus.

Except, we do have this one kids’ album. And he freaking loves it. And sometimes we freaking love it. So we listen to it almost every day (and that’s why we only sometimes freaking love it). So today, for your reading pleasure, I’m going to go through Alphabutt song by song, and talk about all of my feelings. Buckle up!

 

Track One: Little Monster Babies

The album starts out strong, energetic, and fun. I’m not sure if my 11 month old loves this song specifically, or just loves the fact that I put on music for him. I think he likes that it features kid noises, baby noises, and sounds that sound an awful lot like blocks tumbling down. Either way, it’s totally danceable, and he’s recently learned some baby dance moves. Babies learning how to dance has always been one of my favorite things on the planet, and my own child is no exception to that. It’s a cute song, and it’s definitely a “he’s happy, I’m happy” kind of moment for me.

Track Two: Alphabutt

This song is about 90% about butts, farts, and poop. I am a full grown adult, and I laughed out lout the first time I heard it. It strikes me as basically perfect kid humor, and I can’t imagine a kid not liking it. Now, of course, my child doesn’t yet know what things like “doo-doo” and “loud and long farts” are yet, but he’s still a huge fan. He does his funny little head bob and it’s the best thing ever. I get mildly annoyed when she says “I is for eyeball” but I figure odds are my baby will still learn to read just fine.

Track Three: Bobby-O

Ok, here is where me and the child begin to have a difference of opinion. I just cannot get into this song. I can’t. I’ve tried. The rest of the album is so good, I feel annoyed with myself for being annoyed, but I am annoyed so there it is. I don’t like that his horse is named “Rambo” and I’m not into him wearing a sombrero and I really really don’t like  the somewhat mysterious use of the word “naughty.” Here:

He did something naughty
What it was we’ll never know,
But the hotel owner said
Man you gotta go.
Take your bathing suit
And don’t forget Rambo!
Oooooooh
Bobby-O!

Maybe it’s just that I don’t like the word “naught” in the first place? Maybe it’s something to do with the whole idea of secrets and shame and my desire to tell kids the truth? Either way, when you listen to an album one million time, the little things that you’re not nuts about really start to get under your skin. This is happening for me on this song.

So I used to just skip it… but… BUT…

I can’t anymore. The child absolutely loves it. It is, undeniably, his jam. He can’t stand on his own yet, but he will hold himself up on a chair, throw one hand up to the heaves, and just rock out.

Oooooooh
Bobby-O!

Track Four: Louie

Kimya Dawson has a daughter named Panda, and according to this song, Panda’s favorite doggie is named Louie. This song has literally everything that you could possibly want out of a song about a kid and her dog, and if you are going to question why the human child has a less traditional name than the dog, you can leave my house right now.

Track Five: Smoothie

Ok folks, you might not expect that this would be where the water works start, but it is. Let me explain.
In this song, a Mama (presumably Kimya herself) is asking a Papa to make her a smoothie, because she’s pregnant and the baby isn’t moving very much, and drinking a smoothie will get the fetus to move! It’s really cute, and she describes the various things a fetus might do after the gestating person consumes a smoothie using some really great language like “and then the head and butt start rolling like two balls bowling perfect games on the lanes inside of me.” Every time I hear this song, I want to sing along. And I start to, and then my voice catches, and I start sobbing. About smoothies.

I don’t know many people who were looking forward to being pregnant as much as I was. And I waited a relatively long time, I was 29 when my son was born, which is not OLD but did mean that I’d been daydreaming about being a mom for a decade already. I have always been fascinated by pregnancy and birth, and was really excited about those things being part of my life. And then, pregnancy and birth utterly and completely destroyed me.

I was sick for basically my entire pregnancy, I was miserable and incapable of doing things that I enjoyed, and I wanted to die.

And I drank smoothies, and my partner made them for me. But there was no joy in it. there was just wishing and hoping that this time I wouldn’t hurl immediately. There was drinking slowly and sitting next to a metal bowl JUST IN CASE and reminding myself that me and the fetus desperately need nutrition. I loathed being pregnant more than I could have possibly imagined.

Yet, stupidly, some days I still want to do it again.

But I’m probably not going to.

And so, I can’t hear a song like this one without feeling all of that heaviness. It just sounds like all of the joy and magic that I desperately wanted, that I didn’t get, and that I never will get. So I try to sing along.

Blub blub blub like a fart in a tub
like a fart in a tub inside of me!

And I cry and I cry and I cry.

Track Six: I Like Bears

Oh man! The first time I heard this song, it was when my wife and I were just dating. Kimye Dawson was playing a show at the contemporary art museum here, and that seemed like an excellent date idea. There was, for whatever reason, also a weird light show type thing going on that gave me a splitting heading. But Kimya was awesome, and we ran into a bunch of friends, and it was a pretty good time despite the headache.

Before playing this song she just said, “this is a song about big, hairy, gay men!”

And we all laughed. And I don’t think people stopped laughing the entire time. And it was great.

This track gets bonus points because my kid loves it, too.

Track Seven: Seven Hungry Tigers

Good times had all around.

Track Eight: Happy Home (Keep On Writing)

Oh my god. Hang on, sit tight, I want to find you all the lyrics for this one. Or maybe you should go watch it on youtube immediately.

There was a time in my life that I felt so all alone
That I never thought that someday I would have a happy home
A family and a four track radio shack microphone
A backyard and a hammock and a paid off student load
A backyard and a hammock and a paid off student load

So if you see me and I’m dreaming
About selling socks on ebay
Shake me hard till I’m awake
Stitches will unravel, the stitches will unravel
The stitches will unravel if you knit with fishing line
Though your cast will be refined
You’d be better off with twine

When I was a kid we would play Annie at recess
I was always Sandy because I was the smallest
From all that crawling on the blacktop
There were holes in all my jeans,
In the toes of my bowed shoes but I never complained
Because I didn’t think that I could sing
See I never perfected that nasally thing
All the kids sang in the school play
Now I know it’s better if we don’t all sound the same
Now I know it’s better if we don’t all sound the same

So if you hear me and I’m screaming
About auditions for Annie
I hope you will try out with me
There are parts for everybody
And you don’t need to be the dog unless you like being the doggy

He’s up against a team that he has never seen before
And they march into the outfield like they’re marching off to war
It’s a good one out to right field but they’re quick and make the play
And as the curtain closes he just bows and walks away
Singing, “If you’re breathing you are living
If you’re living you are learning
So write and write and keep on writing
Just make sure your life’s exciting”

So if you see me and I’ve joined the roller derby
Know that I’ve become something I always wanted to be
Fast and strong and part of a team

Teacher, thanks for everything
You said “If you’re breathing you are living
If you’re living you are learning
So write and write and keep on writing
Just make sure your life’s exciting
Write and write and keep on writing
Just make sure your life’s exciting
Write and write and keep on writing
Just make sure your life’s exciting
Just make sure your life’s exciting
Just make sure your life’s exciting

I have helpfully bolded the lines on which my voice start to crack and I have to fight not to start sobbing. Obviously, by the end of the song, I am basically reduced to a puddle. Honestly, this song is probably one of the things that helped carry me through my horrible postpartum depression and PTSD. My life is not the same as this, not by a long shot, but it’s a helpful reminder all the same. “If you’re breathing you are living” is such a huge, yet simple, thing to say. And it’s so important. And we don’t remind each other of that nearly enough. So I play with my kid and I write furiously and I try to keep my head up through all the crap in life and I cry like a baby to this song.

The baby is still little enough to think adults crying is funny. It’s awkward.

Track Nine: Wiggle My Tooth

So you are catching your breath from all that crying, and now Kimya is going to remind you that this song is for KIDS. Here is a song about a loose tooth. We like the kid who shouts “go!” on the track because that’s really fun. Since I had a real bad wisdom tooth situation a couple of weeks ago, sometimes this song makes my skin crawl a little bit, but it’s not the song’s fault. Teeth are fine, really.

Track Ten: I Love You Sweet Baby

Parent friends had warned me that this song was a cryer. It doesn’t disappoint. It’s basically a song that goes through an average day with a baby/toddler, and I have to say that as a mostly-at-home parent, there is something about spelling out the monotony in a joyous way that is just lovely. I’m not sure if it would be as relatable to parents who aren’t some kind of hippie-ish and attachment-ish type parents, she talks about nursing and co-sleeping and avocados, but for me it hits very close to home. It also feels very specific. This is not a song that is trying to zoom out and talk about the general experience of having a young child. This is a song about loving your baby, your very specific baby. It’s personal. I don’t know what was going through her head when she wrote this, but it sounds like the kind of thing a parent would write to get them through it and remind them that it is fucking magical.

It is fucking magical.

When you wake up we have more plans
say good morning baby and kiss your hands.
Then your gonna make a pee
in your little green potty.

Congratulations, you are now sobbing your eyes out and clutching your child to a song with the words “make a pee” in it. Welcome to the club. It’s a good club, we understand you here. Honestly? I’m not even listening to it and my eyes are misting a bit.

Track Eleven: Pee-Pee In The Potty

My wife finds this song slightly grating, either because of the sing-song nature of it or the bodily function content (maybe both!). I freaking love this song and I don’t know why. Maybe I think that if I play it enough my child will be inspired to learn to use the potty all on his own or something?

Track Twelve: Uncle Hukee’s House

So until writing this and actually looking at the track list, I thought this song was “Uncle Yuki’s House.” I still love it, but man was I delighted by the idea of Panda having an uncle named Yuki. Oh well. It’s a song about visiting friends and relatives and how much fun it is. I especially love the part where two animals (I think they are cats) get scared and run when the baby/kid comes over.

Track Thirteen: We’re All Animals

This song totally floors me in how effortlessly it blends different topics together. Is it a song that’s kind of explaining puberty to kids? Yup. Is it a silly song listing different kinds of animals? Sure is! Is it a song that teaches that human beings are just one of many different kinds of animals? Yes ma’am! I like the message that we’re all animals, and there’s nothing wrong with being an animal. My baby likes the kids making funny animals sounds.

I have one tiny quibble, and that’s the use of the word “natural” in reference to body hair. I like body hair! I like it a lot! I do not, however, find natural to be a very helpful or accurate word when talking about much of anything, including the removal (or lack of removal) of body hair. Honestly, this rant is really a totally separate post, so I’m going to leave it at that for today. WordPress says we’re already at 2,594 words and we’ve got more songs to talk about still.

Track Fourteen: Little Panda Bear

A sweet song that is easy to sing along to, me the kid both love this one. Sometimes I find myself singing it to him to cheer him up at random points throughout the day, and he seems like, impressed, that I can do it without the CD on. Yes I am your amazing mama I can do anything! It’s obviously a little song that Kimya wrote for her daughter, and that makes it even sweeter. In my family, the kid’s favorite stuffed animal is a panda, so it feels related.

Track Fifteen: Sunbeams and Some Beans

You probably knew that we were going to end with more crying. Maybe you didn’t anticipate that you’d be teaching your child about the importance of farming and the harsh realities of the world and how capitalism is evil. Now you know!

See there’s a surplus of food in this country
and nobody should ever go to sleep hungry.
But that food is kept under lock and key
considered a privilege for people with money.

We know a lot of urban farmers, and this song feels important to me. The people who feed us matter. Hunger matters. Teaching children about these things matter. I want to be honest with my kid about everything that is wrong and sad about the world, but also that we can do good things if we try. We can feed each other. We can keep each other warm. Caring for people is a virtue. So me and the baby slow dance around our tiny living room, and I sing along as best as I can, and sometimes I cry just a little. But it’s a different cry. It’s a brave, fierce, cry. It’s the cry of a mother determined to do her damn best, and to inspire her child to do his damn best.

We are making each other stronger.

Thanks, Kimya, is what I’m trying to say.

943958_10205385347381050_6658599649573850110_nThis is so much more than just a children’s album. It’s so much more than a folk album. It’s shaping the kind of parent I am and helping me to reflect on and refine my values. It’s delighting my baby and bringing us closer together because it’s something we can both love, rather than something I just have to “get through” for him. And yeah, it’s talking pretty unabashedly about poop. Poop, it turns out, is hilarious, and it’s a big part of parenting.

 

On “Good” Babies, And The Other Kind

Our child is now ten months old (which I really can’t believe most days) and this past weekend all three of us (mama, ma, bae) went to visit my older sister. We took the train, and we had no idea how that might go with a baby, especially a mobile baby who is inching towards toddlerism.

It was fine.

On the way there, he was well rested and excited about getting out of the house. He loves going to new places, and since I’m a little bit of a homebody, he doesn’t always go out into the world quite as much as he would like. At least in this stage in his development, he’s an extrovert, and he can become bored and frustrated at home.

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So we got on the train and he laughed as be discovered things about it. He touched the fabric on the seats, looked out the windows, climbed back and forth in our laps, nursed, napped, and LOVED the cafe car (what kid wouldn’t love a moving restaurant? I mean THEY don’t know the food is crap and overpriced), and nursed again. He was a little frustrated that he couldn’t crawl around, but only a little and he didn’t make a stink about it.

And we got a constant stream of compliments from our fellow passengers.

“What a good baby!”
“I can’t believe how well behaved he is!”
“He’s being really good!”

When other adults compliment your child, especially in a way that seems to also compliment your parenting, it gives you a kind of glow. By the time we got off the train, we were feeling smug as hell. Our child was just inherently wonderful, and everyone could tell, and we were great parents doing great parenting.

“Oh he’s so good!” Someone would say.
“Yeah, he’s loving this.” We would beam back at them.

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But the way home was another matter.

Our train home left at 7:20am, which meant leaving my sister’s apartment at 5:30 to get there on public transit in time for pre-boarding. Which meant waking up at 4:15. On top of that, he was having some trouble sleeping with the unfamiliar surroundings. So we boarded the train with a confused, overtired baby, who was thoroughly sick of being moved around the world. Even with all that, though, when we boarded he enjoyed making faces at the straight couple across the aisle from us. The woman smiled back at him, and shared that they had spent the weekend away from their seven month old daughter, and were on their way back to her. “How did he do on the ride here?” she asked, and of course we beamed at her and told her of our great success riding a train with a baby.

But we wouldn’t get a single compliment during the journey home.

As a parent, I can say that his behavior was only a little bit “worse.” But the fineness of that line didn’t matter to anyone else. He cried several times. He screamed during diaper changes. When he couldn’t get other passengers to interact with him, he tried raising his voice, as if maybe they just couldn’t quite hear him. But he napped really really well, and still enjoyed the cafe car, and bobbed his head to the sound of the train. However, the reactions he inspired from other passengers were totally different. Instead of gushing compliments, I overhead one man tell a fellow traveler that he was moving seats to avoid he “whiny baby.” In the cafe car, as he was merrily eating bits of soft pretzel, a family with an older child looked over in disgust at the mangled bits of pretzel he dropped on the table top.

We had become the annoying people with the baby.

It did not feel good. I was not glowing.

I’m not breaking any new ground here, but all of this left me thinking about the way we talk about “good kids” and “bad kids” as a culture. Good kids appear to be kids that adults do not have to interact with when they don’t want to, kids that are quiet, and especially kids that are not complaining. Adults who are vocally horrified by the phrase “children should be seen and not heard” still don’t hesitate to label quiet children as “good” and turn up their noses when children are loud. To tell the truth, I’m not sure I’m immune to this kind of thought myself. Have I ever congratulated my kid on being “good” when he refrained from fussing (and this made my life easier)? Probably.

But it still bothers me. Especially when we are talking about very young children, often when we talk about quietness what we’re really talking about is a lack of communication. Babies communicate by making sounds. Those sounds can sound like coos, like cries, like shrieks, or like whining, but they are often loud and they can be very grating. A baby does not have a way to tell you something is wrong quietly and unobtrusively. Whether they are hungry, tired, bored, or wet, the result is the same: they get loud.

I am now going to talk about baby poop. One day, no doubt, my child will hate me for having shared this, but it’s illustrative of a point.

Now that he is mobile and playing all the time, our baby rarely tells us when his diaper is full. He’ll just poop and keep right on playing. This is a huge problem, because it means that sometimes I don’t find out that he has pooped until it has dried to his skin, which leads to a pretty awful diaper change experience for all involved, and diaper rash. Now, I still don’t think he’s a bad baby for being too busy with his blocks to give me a heads up, and it’s my job as his parent to check his diaper often because I know there could be “stealth poo” at any time. But there’s no denying that it’s a case where a little more communication would be useful!

And yet, according to the conventions of goodness and badness in children, he’s doing the best thing he can do by keeping quiet and not bothering me.

I hate that.

I want my child to communicate with me. I want my child to know that be can always come to me with whatever is going on with him. I want him to know that he can communicate even when it is inconvenient for other adults. I want him to know that I am confident enough to handle the disapproving looks and lack of praise.

He was a good baby on both train rides, because he was sharing how he felt with his parents in the only way he knew how. It’s just that on one of those train rides he was more content, and on one of them he was more stressed, and that has to be ok.