Parenting

The Great Imitator

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Be it a brayer I've abandoned for a brush as I work on a piece, or my favorite matte purple lipstick ("Shameless" by Revlon), this one is mastering the art of imitation at age two. He's my constant companion in the studio, quietly underfoot, his little hands searching blindly along the edges of my work tables for something to grasp while I work. Nothing is safe or off limits no matter how far I think I'm moving it beyond his reach-he finds a way to deftly, and swiftly get paint, brushes, spray bottle, brayer, palette knife, paper towels, water in his hands when my focus is elsewhere. I've begrudgingly begun to accept that if he's awake, there is no working in the studio without him next to, behind, or underneath me silently watching or working just as diligently as I am. He watches, then imitates both in the studio and around the house, spraying the walls, couch or television with water from my spray bottle he grabbed off my table or tagging his brand new shirt or wall with my lipstick. 

... 

His brothers enjoy drawing and sometimes playing in paint (Alex always always always uses a brush, no fingers, because tactile aversion), but he's the first of my children to show such an affinity for it...an intense focus on it, which intrigues me as I watch him.

Hmmm.

Come to think of it, I painted quite a bit while he grew in my belly those nine months. A lot, actually. Maybe that's why it seems so flow out of him so effortlessly, in a way that it doesn't with them. He studies my movements and attempts to replicate them on his own. I've often looked down to see him foam brush or brayer in hand, quietly painting a corner of a piece in progress, mimicking my movements and strokes with whatever tool I'm using.  

 ....

I think it's time to get him his own easel, brushes, apron, and paper. Perhaps his own brayer as well-that seems to be his favorite, which has me smiling as I type this because it's mine as well. 

Sigh. 

This kid. 

Oh you beautiful, mischievous, joyful, getting into all the things all the time boy. 

What an explosive and intricate work of art you are.  

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So I Joined The PTA, But I'm Still Feminist As F*ck

On September 1st, at Back to School night,  I joined the PTA. I didn't plan on it. I didn't even realize that's where my life was headed until I found myself at a table full of brownies forking over $8 dues so I could eat as many as I wanted. Don't get me wrong, I'm an involved parent. I mean, between Room Mom and Who Gives a F--k, I fall comfortably in the middle when it comes to "being involved". I don't do field trips, classroom read-alouds, or volunteer to be the teacher's copy b*tch, but I DO go to Open House, parent teacher conferences, shell out money for the Fall Carnival and Spring Gala, buy wish list items, contribute funds to the end of the year Teacher Gift, and sign up to bring salad mixes or spaghetti sauces for the Admin Appreciation Luncheons. I'm aware and in the loop but not overly committed. 

In some ways I can't be because my life over the last three years has revolved around getting the boys the interventions & support services they need, and well, having another child. The way my stay at home mom life is set up, being available to be in the classroom or running Chess Club or being uber involved during the school day just hasn't been possible...and even if it was, I probably still wouldn't unless the need was significant. I like doing other, non kid related shit because motherhood is an identity I work really hard at not getting lost in. I like devoting myself to other personal interests & passions. I also just like being behind the scenes and contributing in ways that don't force me into awkward moments of small talk with other class parents. I've done it enough at pick up and classmates' birthday parties to know that I'm just not cut out for that life. Or at least I wasn't at Brennan's previous school in Austin where the privilege, affluence, and lack of diversity made socializing extremely uncomfortable at times. 

However, things are different this year, at Brennan's new school. We aren't the only Black or Brown faces, and the socioeconomics of the student population are drastically different. While I have a few issues with the availability of support services here, I'm comfortable. So is Brennan. So comfortable that after the Title 1 meeting on Back to School night, when Bren asked for $25 so he could buy a spirit hoodie, I happily agreed and followed him to the table in the courtyard to pay. That's when I saw the brownies. My stomach growled, I heard my toddler screaming at my husband a few feet away, a wave of hormones screamed CHOCOLATE THREE O CLOCK, and as Bren was getting his hoodie, I was stuffing a brownie (okay TWO brownies) in my mouth while filling out a PTA membership form. 

I...don't even know who I am anymore. 

A Minivan. The PTA. 3 kids. Weeks away from being 33. Stay at home mom. Married. 

How did I get here w/ these identifiers?

You think, plan, and work for your life to match this fantasy or ideal in your head, right? Then Life takes a look at what you've got and is like F---- YO PLANS! TAKE THIS ROAD BECAUSE ADULTHOOD AND DECISIONS AND STUFF.

And then before you know it, you're a 32 year old disabled veteran and mom of three w/ an associates degree in communications and a bachelors in forgotten aspirations of being a youth minister/journalist/therapist grabbing more brownies than is probably allowed and forking over $8 PTA dues while your youngest goes ape shit on their dad.

I didn't want any biological children. I took my birth control faithfully. Austin is an IUD baby for crying out loud. I didn't want to be one of those military brats who joined the service like their parents. I thought I'd be a Peace Corps member then an investigative journalist like Lisa Ling or a music critic with a steady gig at Rolling Stone who was actively involved in racial reconciliation work & youth ministry for FUN. At the very least, post kids and military, I thought I'd be a therapist. Through it all, my bottom line has always been my desire to serve and help and fight for others.

That's why at times, it's so strange to find myself here living a life well outside of what I had hoped and tried to plan for myself. It's not a bad life, don't get it twisted. It's just vastly different than what I lived out in my head. Hell, it's vastly different from the one I was living in 2011 when I was a single mom of two attending college full-time, consulting full-time, and living off of GI Bill benefits, Medicaid, and TANF. As much as I wrestle over this What The Actual F--k Am I Doing With My Life Now existential angst that seizes me when my toddler is adamant about sitting on my lap while I use the bathroom, I'm still trying to overcome the feels from THAT. 

I'm not complaining though. I'm simply ruminating because I'm tired as f--k and chugging a glass of sangria like it's the blood of Christ that will give me new life to face the tantrums and mayhem of parenting tomorrow. 

I'm also sleep deprived. (Aren't we all?)

Life is weird and beautiful...and sometimes it's a smug ass bastard laughing at the stops and detours it's taken you through because it needed you to grow and it needed to be entertained. 

I'm still feminist as f--k though. I wonder if that would fit on my membership card. 

 

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Austin's Power

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You. The force and power is strong with you. I hope you always know it and channel it to live life as it's meant to be lived: out loud, wholehearted, and on your own terms. Always stay connected to your power, and remember it's okay to remain unconventional in your approach to this Life, my Bandersnatch. Allow no circumstance or misguided opinion to temper your intensity as you grow into it either. Hold onto your joy as tightly as you hold onto your brothers when pulling them down to the ground with you to laugh and wrestle. Refuse to let go. Be you. Always. 

 

I love you my sweet, wild, beautiful, boy. 

             -Mama

How I Get Through This Thing Called Our Life.

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"How do you manage everything on your plate and stay sane?" she asked somewhat laughingly but her eyes were completely serious. They earnestly searched mine as she grabbed his hand to take him to the back, imploring me to answer honestly.

The grappling, pulling, juggling, managing, navigating and maneuvering, keeping track and keeping pace, doing it sometimes alone, the grind, keeping it straight, holding it altogether, the staying afloat and standing upright even when your knees are buckling, the work. This work of parenting, living, surviving and grinding to thrive internally and externally. Life.  

How do any of us do it?  

"Medication," I answered with a smile. "And color. Always color. The bolder and richer the better, honey."

She nodded. "Then I guess I should tell you that Orange is definitely your power color. Every time I see you wearing it, you emanate strength. I'm going to miss seeing your colorful self and the boys here every week. I know the others here will too-we love your family."  

I swallowed back a rising flood of tears and let out a shaky breath as I smiled back. 

 "NOPE. We can't do this yet. We have three more visits left before we can get emotional about saying bye. I can't really admit it's happening because I'm still just not ready for this change to occur, you know? I know it's going to be fine, but I'm just not ready."

We hug and she takes Alex into the gym, joking with him as he skips next to her laughing. N comes and scoops up Austin, sing song-ing her hello in an effort to quell his anxiety during the transition from the waiting room to the gym. He cries like usual but I wave and smile reassuringly to let him know it's going to be fine. They disappear behind the door and I turn to Brennan. He's already engrossed himself into Creative Mode on Minecraft, and when I reach out to give his shoulder a squeeze, he looks up and smiles, scooting closer to me on the seat. 

I exhale and allow it to quiet my mind as I insert my headphones, shuffle through my library and press Play. 

This is how I do it. The living and grinding. The managing and standing upright when my knees are buckling as I do the work to thrive. 

Medication, honesty, color, reaching out for support, loving gestures in moments and in ways I didn't experience as a child. That's how I do this thing called our Life.