When Being a Mother Is a Lonely Gig

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Right before my son was born my mother said something to me that, at the time, didn’t make much sense. She said: “Your husband will love you and support you and will appreciate all of the sacrifices that you are making in raising this child. But in the end, you will be all alone with every big decision, every crisis.”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially recently as the three of us—my son, my husband, and I—were sitting in the emergency room of our local children’s hospital. That morning my 5-year-old woke up and wasn’t able to walk. We thought it might be a cramp from sleeping in a funny position and things seemed to improve as the day wore on—until they didn’t. So here we were, right around dinnertime, in a tiny exam room, eating graham crackers and oranges the nurses brought us.

The full story is on Role Reboot

Teaching a child about death

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The assignment at preschool was simple: draw a picture of your family. The teacher stapled 15 little pieces of paper on the bulletin board outside of the classroom once the drawings were finished. There were big families and small families. Families with pets, babies, and families that looked like tiny aliens.

Our family, drawn on a piece of neon green paper with an orange marker, looked like your average stick-figure family. Mama on one side with spiky hair, Sam in the middle, tiny, and Dada on his other side, bald, and a bit taller than the two of us. Above our heads two orbs hovered, spirals of orange marker lines, with helpful notes from the teacher that Sam must have dictated: “My great-grandmother.” And over the other orb: “Grand-pap, my dad’s dad. He was special to me.”

Both great-grandma—my grandmother, whom we called “Dedi”—and grand-pap have been dead for more than two years. Sam met both of them a handful of times when he was a baby, then maybe later when he was 1, then maybe once more when he was 2-and-a-half. Yet, it seems, their orbs keep lingering in his mind and right over our family.

Read the full story on The Washington Post

We’ll Always Have Frankfurt

I took the last fortune cookie that came with our bill at the dim sum place near my office. My friends and I were celebrating the end of a long week, and we were all loud and slightly buzzed from our cocktails. The thin slip of paper fell into my lap as I crumbled the cookie between my fingers, and I almost simply tossed it on my plate amongst the small pools of soy sauce. Instead, I wiped my fingers and straightened out the strip. I laughed at a joke half-heartedly, not taking my eyes off the words in front of me.

“An old love will come back to you.”

“Well, you are going to have to be more specific,” I joked after I read my fortune to my friends. But I really only had one old love in mind.

The last time I had seen Peter was thirteen years ago when he flew halfway across the world to show up at my office, unannounced, two months before my wedding to another man. We had lunch, then later that afternoon we met up at my apartment and talked for maybe an hour about … I don’t even know what. Definitely not about our six-year, mostly long-distance relationship—by now more of a friendship rather than a love affair—or what was about to happen to that relationship. I think back and wonder why he was there, why he drank tea with me in my kitchen, why he told me that his girlfriend was looking at wedding magazines. Was he looking for a certain reaction from me? Was he there to change my mind? Or his?

We held each other and he kissed my forehead. Then he walked away.

We stayed in touch through infrequent e-mails and occasional phone calls through this thick, juicy part of life filled with marriage and children and careers. Somehow our friendship deepened over the years despite the distance, and our interactions always buzzed with that faint undercurrent of lovers who fell victim to time, distance, circumstance. We could have been. But we aren’t. And now we never will be.

The full story is on Full Grown People

Why Moms Have Eyes in the Back of Their Heads

Photo by Gabriela Pinto, flickr

Photo by Gabriela Pinto, flickr

Sam and I have been locked in an argument about my parenting skills. You see, he thinks that I do not have eyes in the back of my head. And I know that I do.

He is pretty convinced that he is right. He tells me, “Mama, you only have eyes in the front,” and pokes his little fingers at my eyeballs for emphasis. “But look,” I respond, “look right behind all this hair in the back of my head. My eyes are right there. That’s why mamas have long hair.” He digs around in my curls, parts my hair this way and that, just to be sure. “No mama, you are being a clown,” he tells me, laughing.

Despite the physical evidence and his conviction, he does bring up the topic quite often — especially when he is doing something he is not supposed to behind my back. That’s how I know I need to turn around to make sure he is not eating a bug, or drawing on the walls, or stuffing toast in his ears. “You see, I do have eyes in the back, I caught you!” I tell him and suddenly, shaken in his belief, he needs to start digging around in my hair again.

I often think about how true it is that when we become parents, we end up saying things that we swore we would never, ever utter to our own children. My mom used to drive me crazy with “I see and know everything because I have eyes in the back of my head,” mostly because it was really true. By the time I walked the one block between my school and our apartment, my mom would know about that C on my geography test and that walking directly home involved a quick stop at the ice cream shop. It was infuriating to think that somehow, I was always watched by some secret neighborhood system of innocent-looking old ladies and shopkeepers who were really my mom’s spies.

 

Read the rest on The Huffington Post…

Mash, Mash

mashI can’t remember the last time I wrote fiction. But this one just sort of happened, like writing tends to happen — out of nowhere, without warning. So enjoy it and vote for it! Because writing is great, but winning is also great!

Are Those Hearts?

She knew she was in trouble the moment she tried on the sheer, wine-colored blouse at the store. “Hearts, for Christ’s sake! Hearts!” she murmured as she tugged at the hem, the collar, the sleeves.

Tiny, pink hearts.

She wasn’t entirely on top of things when it came to fashion. But she could see that the shirt fit perfectly. It draped over her soft shape, resting on her hips like a pair of warm hands. She stared in the mirror and stuck out her tongue at her reflection. “You are thirty-fucking-eight years old. Pull it together.”

She wore the shirt the morning after, when an entire day stretched in front of them, lazy, promising. She wore a jacket and a scarf against the cool air and drizzle, but felt the soft fabric against her skin all day as they drove through early morning fog and walked on cobblestoned, ancient streets, like tourists.

She tried to decide whether it was OK to hold his hand. She remembered how his hands used to fit hers. They were small hands for a man, but so perfect against her palm, just the right amount of space between his fingers for hers, his thumb resting on top of her hand, his elbow curving into hers as they walked. But that was ages ago.

Would they still fit like that?

Read the rest of the story and vote for it on Mash Stories!

Inked

By DaMongMan/ Flickr

By DaMongMan/ Flickr

I could sort of make out the outlines of the tattoo on my husband’s arm on the small photo on my phone. He took it in front of our bathroom mirror, holding up his right forearm in front of his face. I had to turn my head to the side to see that there were sun rays and a sword and a heart—some Masonic symbols that I don’t understand and perhaps I am not even allowed to understand. The tattoo stretched from wrist to elbow and wrapped all the way around his arm.

When we got married thirteen years ago, Drew did not have a single tattoo. I don’t think we ever talked about his desire to have one. Now he has four, with a fifth one in the plans. The first ones were modest, easily covered up by shirts and forgotten. I was away on a business trip this time and I knew that it was “tattoo day,” but the size and scope of this latest ink caught me off guard. I scanned myself for a reaction: how am I supposed to feel when my spouse turns from a baby-faced, soft-haired man into a bald, tattooed dude? I know how his mother feels about his tattoos and, when I think about my own sweet, soft-skinned baby boy getting inked when he is older, I completely sympathize with her. But Drew is not my child—he is my husband. So I should be supportive, right? I want to be—and I am—but I can’t help but stop for a moment to acknowledge the unease in the pit of my stomach. Is it the tattoo itself that makes me pause? Or the change that the tattoo signifies? Does it signify a change? How do I know?

The rest of the story is on Full Grown People.

What Are We Allowed to Talk About Anymore?

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We gathered in the center of our cubicle farm—the four women I share the space with stood around my desk. I am new in the office and they were asking me about my son. They wanted to see pictures and asked me about his age, his height, and told me that he has my eyes and my nose.

Then came the inevitable question: “When are you having another one? You are having another one, right?”

This happened just the day after I read an article about what not to say to first-time mothers. That article came on the heels of several others with a similar angle: What not to ask pregnant women. The 10 worst things to say to parents of twins. What no mother of boys ever wants to hear. Even something about what not to say to people who are going through dietary changes around the holidays. I am pretty sure that the question my co-workers asked me would have qualified for one of these no-no lists.

I know that these articles are usually meant to poke fun at wildly inappropriate people, but the articles’ prevalence always make me wonder: At what point—and especially why—did we come to assume that the questions and comments about pregnant bellies, dietary preferences, or child-rearing choices are malicious? Yes, the questions are sometimes silly, or too personal, or too ick-inducing. But can’t we just talk?

The full story is on Role Reboot…