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Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

From The Quiet Corner

December 26, 2016

By Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

How many times when kids are young do parents essentially shake off their child’s upset? “You fell? You got up! You’re worried? You’re awesome!” We aim to bolster self-esteem; we keen toward reassurance.

The other day, my daughter asked why Trump won. We were walking to her gymnastics practice. “You know, our country really doesn’t agree about how to make things better,” I told her. “So, sometimes the great person wins and sometimes someone wins we don’t agree with. Everyone wants the world to be better,” I assured her.

“I was really looking forward to telling my kids that when I was eight turning nine in 2016, we elected our first girl President,” she said.

“I know, me too,” I replied. “I was looking forward to your kids hearing that. I do think we’re going to get a girl President.”

“Maybe I will be the first girl President!” Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

Attachment Parenting

November 10, 2016

*An amazing picture Jesse drew of his family, putting them in two pairs.

By Kendra Lubalin

Sadie is wrapped around my leg, her surprisingly strong thighs and arms tightly squeezing her body to mine, attached.  She says “I don’t know why I ever stopped nursing!  If I hadn’t I could still suck on your boobs every day!”  She is six years old, but her face is pressed to my calf so tightly, her yearning voice so authentically in pain, that I can’t laugh.

She wants to be so close that she doesn’t know how to get there.  It’s an impossible amount of closeness to achieve.  She wants my membranes to be permeable so she can swim inside me, she wants to pass though me like a ghost, but solid and warm – blood mixing with blood, breath with breath, heartbeat with heartbeat.  If she could crawl back inside the womb I’m still not sure she could satiate the desire she has to own me, to make me hers.  She whispers to me that she will put a window into my stomach, so she can live in there and still see her friends.

Straddling my lap she grabs my face in her hands and goes eye to eye, foreheads touching.

“You are mine.  Only mine.” Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

Dear Jacob: An Open Letter to My 15 Year Old Son

November 7, 2016
loved

By Adrienne Rich-Giuliano

Dear Jacob,

So many beautiful thoughts come to my mind that make me smile when I think of you.  It makes my heart want to bust open.  From singing “You Are My Sunshine” to you countless times as an infant, to how I say you taught me how to be a mom, to how you seem to be such an old soul, to how you always seem to want to be there for people that seem to need a hand, or an ear, or a friend.  I love you for all those things and more.

Earlier today, when your dad and I were talking to you about grades and school and stuff, you seemed to be particularly uncomfortable hearing the words “we love you.”  I don’t know if it is just an age thing, the topic of conversation, or that maybe you didn’t believe the words.

I want you to know that I do love you, an indescribable amount.  While I want you to learn a lot of things in school….that is what I want you to know and believe most of all.  Moreover, what I feel is even more important for you, is that you like and love and take care of yourself, first and foremost.  It took me a long time to understand what this meant, because I didn’t even really ever hear of this concept until I was older. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

Past Imperfect

November 1, 2016
year

By Patti Jurinski

Every year it’s the same. I walk into the school conference room carrying a binder and a single question. Teachers and administrators group in a defensive formation, a single chair waiting across the table. Like a criminal facing the parole board, I take my designated seat, eyes on the neat white stapled pages arranged like place settings.

A quick glance at the ring of faces — tight smiles, dropped eyes — and I have my answer. In spite of everything, nothing has changed. Hope flutters out the window with the spring breeze.

I blink back tears. Crying in an IEP meeting was expected in Kindergarten, the tissue box at the ready. They tolerated it in elementary school, disapproved of it in Junior High. My son’s a freshman now, and the faces at the table are blank. There’s a quarter moon mark where my nail digs deep into my finger, the pain a necessary reminder to focus. The faces start speaking, and the words are familiar but like a pair of dress shoes, never quite comfortable.

Your son is too loud, distractible, annoying to the other students.

The buzzing starts in the back of my head. The build-up to a scream. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

Love Is a Hot Glue Gun

October 13, 2016
ballet

By Nancy Slavin

Love is me snipping at light blue tulle and a thin elastic strap and then reattaching both difficult fabrics onto the front of the ballet costume. I had to get out my reading glasses to thread this needle. Even after paying fifty-five bucks for this costume, I’m doing all this reworking because the dance teacher said if I don’t, the feathery tulle will obscure the little purple pixie wings. And we cannot obscure the pixie wings.

Unlike my daughter, I was a basketball player. When my own mother took me to ballet class as a young girl, I lasted the whole of a minute before I died of boredom. The ballet teacher even told my mother “your daughter does not want to be a ballerina.” I wanted to run and pass and steal a ball and shoot a three pointer. I ran into things like a Mack Truck. As an adult, I’ve worked as a rafting guide and a loud-mouthed feminist activist. I’ve never leapt daintily or pirouetted without wiping out in my life. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

The Lesson Leaving Taught. (No Bullshit Motherhood Series.)

October 8, 2016

Note from Founder Jen Pastiloff: This is part of my new series called No Bullshit Motherhood. Raw, real, 100% bullshit free. If you have something to submit click the submissions tab at the top. You can follow us online at @NoBullshitMotherhood on Instagram and @NoBSMotherhood on Twitter. Search #NoBullshitMotherhood online for more.

By Chris J. Rice

My ten-year-old son stood beside his father in the front yard of my now empty house. My son had a scowl on his face. Looked away from my packed car, down at the ground.

Dark-eyed boy with a skeptical furrowed brow.

“Come here,” I said. Called him over to my driver-side window.

He stuck his head in for a kiss, and I whispered in his ear: “You’re going to miss me. And that’s okay. It’s okay to have a dream. Never forget that.”

He nodded as if he understood. “Bye,” he said, then turned around and ran back to stand with his father.

I put my Datsun in reverse and took off. Moved to Los Angeles to attend graduate school. And I didn’t take my child along. I left him with his dad for the duration. I told them both it would only be a few years, though I knew it would be more.

I sensed it would be forever.

A formal acceptance letter came in the mail and I made a decision. Put my books in the post, my paint box in the trunk of my yellow Datsun B210, and drove headlong into whatever came next. Sold most of my stuff in a big yard sale: the vintage clothes I thought I’d never wear again, the leather couch and chair I’d bought dirt cheap off a moving neighbor.

I didn’t have much left after the divorce.

I said it. My ex said it too. I love you. But he didn’t mean it. And for the longest time I didn’t get that. Just picked up the slack. Made things happen. That’s how it was. Okay. Just okay. He would get angry. Couldn’t seem to manage. Fury popped up like every other emotion. Yelling. Disparaging—things like that.

I missed my son like mad. We talked by phone regularly. I flew back on holidays. He came to visit on spring break, and for a few weeks every summer.

Seven years passed. Continue Reading…

Fear, Guest Posts, parenting

The Ride

September 19, 2016
fears

By Tanya Mozias Slavin

He went on that ride with his Dad. At first I was sure he wouldn’t go. I stood behind the fence and watched them get seated and strapped in, watched the guard lower the safety restraint on them for extra security.

Oh how I hate roller coasters. I hate them precisely because you’re supposed to love them. Because every time I admit to myself that I hate them I get this nagging feeling of inadequacy in my stomach, as if some cheerful somebody is about to come over to me any moment, cheerfully grab my hand and pull me with her saying in the most caring cheerful determined and supportive voice you can imagine ‘Come on! You are gonna have fun!’ And will maybe add ‘Don’t be scared!’ And to the sound of lazy applaud of those still waiting their turn to ride, I would drag after her feeling clumsy and non-fun and somewhat guilty for being a burden – because surely she can be simply having fun but instead she had decided to take care of me – but totally unable to say, even to myself in my head ‘LEAVE ME ALONE I DON’T FUCKING WANNA HAVE FUN!’ What’s the problem to just let a person be! Maybe they are having fun standing there and watching other people hanging upside down in the air and dangling their limbs like little helpless insects!

But I digress. All I wanted to say was that I was sure Martin wouldn’t want to go on that roller coaster ride. Because he is just such a cautious boy and he really doesn’t like speed or any other kind of adrenaline inducing activities. I mean he even hated slides until he was almost four years old. And I’m NOT the one to cheerfully grab his hand and pull him towards whatever he is scared of. Because SEE ABOVE. In fact, that was the silent promise I made to myself the minute the mere possibility of motherhood appeared in front of me in the form of a little plus sign on a pee stick: NO CHEERFUL HAND GRABBING. He is allowed to be whatever he is and I will never be the one to coerce him, in however subtle and positive way, to be what he is not.

And yet, as I was standing there watching him take the seat beside his Dad, and with this focused but calm expression on his face raise into the air for his first ever roller coaster ride, I couldn’t keep wondering: was I unintentionally enabling his fears all this time? Was I, in my desire to give his fears space and validate them, inadvertently helping them to be stronger than they needed to be? I didn’t think I was. Yes, I offered him to hide behind me if there was a dog coming toward us and I felt him getting tense, because I didn’t want him to jump onto the road in fear. Yes I never insisted on him getting even his toe in the swimming pool when he was scared of the water. But I also made sure he spend enough time around dogs and swimming pools, and always said things like ‘When you are ready, you’ll be able to do it’. I had never been an overprotective parent. But maybe I wasn’t doing enough to help him be ready? Did he just need a little nudge in the right direction? Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parenting

The Last First Day

September 13, 2016
school

By Bernadette Murphy

The alarm goes off at 6 am.  It’s a sweltering Monday in August, the first day back to school for my daughter, Hope, and the last time I’ll ever oversee this annual routine.  Hope will start her senior year of high school today.  This time next year we’ll be leaving her at a dorm on a university campus yet to be determined.

For the past 21 years, I have been overseeing these back-to-school mornings, taking pictures of my three kids as they hoist on new backpacks filled with freshly sharped pencils that smell like sawdust, packed alongside clean binders and pristine notebooks, as they lace overly bright fresh-out-of-the-box tennis shoes, adjust new school uniforms and comb fresh haircuts.  My oldest, Jarrod, finished his Bachelor’s degree a year ago and is now in his first real job.  My middle son Neil is about to start his junior year in college and has been living away from home since we dropped him at his dorm three years ago.   And now, Hope’s a senior.

My job as a mother – a job that has consumed and thrilled and exhausted and tried and awed me for more than 23 years — is coming to an end. Continue Reading…

Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

Sisterhood, Spirituality, & Raising a Daughter.

September 2, 2016

By Cori Howard

It all started with this ad. A pathetic inspiration really, but it got my 11-year-old daughter laughing and talking about something that is still relatively taboo and not often discussed – her period. “I want a first moon party,” she said, immediately after watching it. And suddenly, my friend and I began scheming about how we could make a vagina cake and a uterus piñata. My 15-year-old son, listening in on our wine-fuelled conversation, was horrified. But we would not be deterred.

We all knew it was coming. We saw the bodily signs – the breast buds, the pubic hair, the body odor. And although I was still coming to grips with how quickly puberty was hitting my little girl, I desperately wanted to honor this moment in her life somehow, to make it positive. Then, lost in the humor of actually planning a first moon party, my friend called and said: “Don’t just make it funny. Do it right.”

She knew me. We’d had endless discussions over the years about rite of passage ceremonies and why they were lacking in our lives and our culture. I had wanted to do something for my son. But at 13, he wasn’t into it and I didn’t realize at the time, he had turned the corner in age. He’d already become an eye-rolling teenager who scoffed at my “weird ideas.” At 11, my daughter was still young enough to be a willing guinea pig for my bohemian fantasy of a female rite of passage ceremony.

So I started reading and thinking. I knew my daughter’s first moon party couldn’t just be piñatas and cake – although it was really fun to make them. The real reason I wanted to host a first moon party was to offer my daughter, and her friends, an antidote to our consumer, hyper-sexualized culture around teenage girlhood. If I could offer her a ceremony that celebrated becoming a woman, that could show her a new way of looking not just at periods, but at sisterhood and spirituality – why not, right?

So the shaman arrived on a sunny, May afternoon and my daughter, surrounded by her 6 closest friends, asks: “Mom, is this going to be weird?”

I didn’t know what to say. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parenting

Lying To My Son

July 6, 2016
parenting

By Paula Younger

When I was ten, my cousin told me, “Did you know Grandma is really our step-grandma?” I am the youngest of four in a Catholic family of loving people who tend to omit important information or lie to avoid discomfort. But my cousin, who didn’t follow my immediate family’s rule, leaned in and said our mothers’ mother died from cancer when they were young. This seemed suspiciously like the time my older siblings convinced me to take a bite of a banana peel, but my cousin convinced me with a detail. She grabbed a strand of her hair and said, “She had blonde hair, like me.”

I pestered Mom with questions until she showed me pictures of the grandmother I never knew, but Mom still didn’t open up about our family secrets.

When I was twelve, the same cousin said our uncle Frank had AIDS. It was 1988, when our Catholic community saw AIDS as a punishment from God. I waited for Mom to tell me. I even wondered if my cousin had been wrong, but then Mom took my siblings and I to our uncle’s house in Houston. Uncle Frank had been our fun, young uncle, ready with gifts and adventures. But his bones were visible beneath his skin. Black bags hung beneath his hollowed eyes. Lesions mottled his pasty arms. My sisters were eighteen and seventeen, my brother fifteen. They helped our uncle and his partner when they could. They didn’t act bored even though we rarely left our uncle’s house. Their normal too-good-for-everything expressions had been dropped. They avoided eye contact with me. They knew and had known for a while.

I cornered Mom. “When were you going to tell me he has AIDS?” Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parenting

What The Kids Should be Watching

May 20, 2016

By Kelly Sokol

I can’t wait to introduce my two daughters to MTV’s reality series Teen Mom. In each episode Amber, Caitlynn, Farrah, Leah, Maci and the other stars deliver a message I’ve been too chicken shit to tell: motherhood as defined in 21st century America is hard as hell. When they are reduced to tabloid headlines, the cast of Teen Mom look like tragic caricatures of motherhood too soon: bad hair extensions, plastic surgery, drugs, convictions, domestic abuse. However the full story line tells an honest, gritty version of motherhood truth that society (and every other television program) chooses to ignore. The women of Teen Mom were the only on-screen role models to which I could relate as a new mother.

I wish I could hate the series; as an educated feminist, perhaps I should. It’s easy to dismiss the show as exploitative and its cast members as too young and too poor to have agreed to have their lives documented. However these young women are brave, and maybe naïve, to invite cameras into their mothering, with all of the trolling commentary and armchair parenting of an audience that lives their lives behind closed doors, in privacy. I can’t stop watching. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parenting

Akasha: When Your Kid Asks For More Space

May 17, 2016
parenting

By Lisa Kusel

“Do you mind? I’m trying to get ready for school,” Loy, my 13-year-old daughter, says as I walk into the bathroom.

Ignoring her, I flip open the medicine cabinet. “I just want to grab some coconut oil. My skin is so dry.”

As I stand next to her in our tiny bathroom, smearing my face into dewy shininess I can’t help but notice the scorn in her eyes in the mirror’s reflection. “What?” I ask.

“I can’t believe you just walked in like that. You’re totally invading my space.”

I put the jar back in the cabinet, mutter “sorry,” and slip out.

Instead of going back to my desk, I stand in the hallway, staring silently at the white bathroom door, picturing her carefully applying mascara to her fresh eyes. Dotting her laughingly few pimples with the expensive tube of concealer she insisted I buy.

Her space? Since when did my baby need her space? Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts, parenting

My Father as a Hologram

April 29, 2016
father

By Ryane Nicole Granados

When the evening traffic transforms into bursts of brake lights, that’s when my son’s rapid-fire questioning begins. There is no escaping the questions and for the most part I don’t mind them. Traveling through the inner workings of his mind can be an effective distraction from Los Angeles gridlock. Thankfully he learned long ago I didn’t have all the answers: why is the moon following us? How much does the sky weigh? He has come to accept my inevitable “I don’t knows” and my continuing deference to Google. He has even come to appreciate my creative attempts at merging science, with fairytale, with folklore with fine art, all in an effort to provide answers to his endless inquires. For the 15-minute car ride home he asks, I try, we laugh, I falter, it’s our thing and I cherish it, but ever so often, and usually when I least expect him to, he poses a question so razor-sharp I’m thrust into silent contemplation.

Yesterday’s blunt force came after an enthusiastic discussion about the release of Star Wars the Force Awakens. Through the rearview mirror I could see his 8-year-old eyes widen with talks of galaxies far far away. His long lashes shooting skyward like Fourth of July sparklers. His smudged eyeglasses sliding downward like an amusement park attraction.  It was a beautiful few minutes to behold, and then silence.

“What’s wrong, sunshine? Why so quiet?” Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, love, parenting

Teaching Sons How To Love

April 1, 2016
parenting

By Deonna Kelli Sayed

“Come to the kitchen,” Ibrahim says. “I want to show you something.”  My 13-year-old son towers over me. A thin layer of newly sprouted moustache sits above his lips, which are now shaped in a comical twirl.

“This is Day 1,” he says, as he turns the kitchen faucet to a trickling stream. He opens the valve a bit more.

“And by Day 3….” The water is full speed now, splattering against the dirty dishes in the sink.

He is explaining menstrual flow to me, his mother, and he is proud to know such secrets. This is after he provides a short explanation of why a woman bleeds every month. Don’t tell me why, I challenge him, tell me how she bleeds.

“The thing inside peels off skin….”

“You mean, the lining of the uterus sheds?” I offer.

“Yes! That is it. It sheds,” he says, as he continues narrating the journey of ovum to unfertilized blood flow.

The conversation started when I asked him what he had learned in sex education that day. He is the only Muslim in his mixed gender class, enduring an abstinence only curriculum that promised not to discuss masturbation, sexual intercourse, or homosexuality.

“What is there to talk about then?” I inquired. He shrugged and muttered that one can’t get into too many details as both girls and boys are in the class. And yet, they teach a vagina song, and not one about the penis, because perhaps the vagina is more complicated, he speculated.

It is all complicated, I say, this love and sex business. Continue Reading…