Author Archives: Little Nesting Doll

Anger

Anger is a powerful force for change.

That’s what Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach told me yesterday.  Well, me and a room full of a few hundred people.

It was a message gratefully received, because good Lord am I angry.  I have anger to spare. 

The world seems to be on fire — literally, in the case of the UN climate change report — and I am irate.  It feels sometimes like anger is impotence, like I am screaming, both mentally and physically, into a void of indifference.  Like nothing I can do will change the problems I see all around me.

But sometimes you just need a reminder: your anger is justified, it is not useless, and with it you can change the goddamn world.

We live in a society that values men over women.  This is a BIG PROBLEM.  It’s a problem that fuels my rage.  This problem makes me the Hulk, a rage monster of superhuman size that just wants to smash everything.  Every single thing. 

I have spoken to men in the last few weeks who quite easily give a man the benefit of the doubt when accused of sexual assault, but refuse to see that in doing so, they deny the woman accusing him that same benefit.  I have spoken to men who say they “believe” that the woman was a victim, but that they don’t believe she knows who her assaulter was even though she says she knows it with 100% certainty. These men are fools enough not to be able to see that those two things are mutually exclusive: you cannot believe the woman if you don’t believe the woman.  MEN WHO SAY THESE THINGS ARE SEXIST AND MISOGYNISTIC AND I CANNOT FIX THEIR BRAINS AND THAT MAKES ME FULL OF RAGE.

I have spoken to women in the last few weeks who say things like “what was she wearing? what did she expect would happen going off with teenage boys who were drinking?” in reference to a woman being sexually assaulted. WOMEN WHO SAY THESE THINGS ARE BRAINWASHED BY A PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY AND I CANNOT FIX THEIR BRAINS AND THAT MAKES ME FULL OF RAGE. 

So instead I turn around and I look at my family to make sure I am raising a generation that knows freaking better.  That I have a daughter who knows that she even if she were to walk naked and drunk down Broadway, no one has the right to touch her without her consent because her body is her body.  That I have sons who understand that they must respect every. other. body. on. earth. and keep their hands to themselves and that no means no and that they will always, always be the only ones responsible for their actions and nothing anyone else says or wears or does will excuse them if they act wrong.  That I have children who know that not all other children will have been taught these things and that it might be up to my children to tell their peers if the things their peers say or do are not okay. 

I cannot fix the broken people who believe that victims are to blame for the actions of assaulters, but I can make goddamn sure that my own children will be better than that. 

(And I can vote out every last representative who doesn’t support the Equal Rights Amendment, who gives the benefit of the doubt to assaulters instead of victims, and who doesn’t actively and overtly call out and work against the misogyny and sexism inherent in the system.  My kids aren’t old enough to vote yet, so they can’t do this.  This is my job.)

The world is facing catastrophic climate change in the next decade.  This is a BIG PROBLEM– maybe the biggest of all because if we don’t fix this one, the rest won’t matter.  Bridget and I were talking about the UN report on climate change and I told her that it said we basically have until 2030 to reverse the course of doom we’re currently on, and even then we can only do it with massive wholesale societal changes worldwide.  In 2030 she’ll be 26 years old.  This is her life we’re talking about saving, and the lives of her brothers.  The lives of any grandchildren I ever hope to have.  It seems insurmountable and the reality of it brings a huge heaving wave of anxiety and hopelessness and rage up in my body that I can taste.

But thank god for the sense and rationality of my daughter, who said the best thing to do is just start: we examine what OUR family can do to change any habits we have that might make even the most infinitesimal difference.  And then we mention to our friends what we’re doing and maybe they make a few small changes.  And maybe it adds up.  We start small and we scale.  She is smarter than me and maybe a bit naive, but her response gives me a chance to breathe.

(We also vote out every last candidate who doesn’t include as a foundation of their electoral platform a larger-scale plan to address the very real threat we face.  But Bridget can’t do that; she’s only 14.  That part is my job.)

We live in a country where nearly 100 people die every single day as the result of gun violence.  We live in a country with a population of 300M people and an estimated 393M guns in circulation.  There are more civilian-owned guns than people in the United States. We live in a country where my children do lockdown drills during school and tell me that they stand near the red dot on the floor because, as Owen says, it’s the place least visible from windows and doors so the shooter wouldn’t have a good line of sight to shoot them, and Quinn adds in that they have to be really, really quiet when they stand there so a shooter can’t hear them.  My imagination plays pictures in my mind of bullets ripping through the bodies of my babies in their classrooms and I have to leave the room to take deep breaths and wipe the tears off my cheeks before I continue our conversation. 

That there are people who believe that their right to own any weapon they choose supersedes my children’s right to LIVE IN SAFETY fills me with enough blind rage that I know I should never own a firearm myself.  So I joined Mom’s Demand Action and I will go to meetings and stand in the State House and host events teaching people how we can respect the second amendment and still create a safer place to live for every person. 

(And I will vote out every single elected official who doesn’t have an F-rating from the NRA, and who doesn’t support common sense gun laws that would mean my children don’t have to stand on a red dot and wait to be shot in school.  My kids can’t do this yet, but I will do it.  And everyone I know will know I am doing it and will know that if they aren’t also doing it, I believe they are actively putting my children in daily danger.)

Since I can remember, I have looked around and wondered why other people weren’t as bothered as I am by the problems all around us.  Why everyone isn’t constantly enraged too.  I have no memory of not feeling like this and I have absolutely no ability to turn it off.  I learned to hide it in order to operate like a normal human in an abnormal world, but all that does is push my rage down inside, it doesn’t extinguish it.  I don’t have anxiety over small things, but I have massive anxiety over the big things: the societal problems, the global issues.  The things I’m least able to change.  I swallowed my rage for decades in order to not seem like a crazy person.  But the state of the world has made me realize, along with the thoughtful and inspirational words I hear from women and men who want to create change: my anger is my power.  And it’s time to use it.

A Dozen Years

A dozen years have passed since I became a mother to a son.  As I’ve said frequently before, having never had brothers, having never seen firsthand what it was like to mother a boy, I didn’t have a good idea of what that would entail. I imagined lots of very smelly dirty socks and climbing on furniture, fewer dress up parties, less concern about hairdos and clothes.

I was totally right and totally wrong about all of it.

Your dirty clothes are numerous and the smelliest I have ever encountered.  You climb and jump and run and throw and fall and catch and just physically bend the world to the will of your body in ways I have never seen anyone do. As though you have to feel what will happen when you (insert physical activity here) to believe it is true.  Smelly socks and non-stop movement, I had those right.

But I was completely wrong about the rest of it.  Dress up parties abound in our house, and although they occasionally feature camouflage and Nerf guns, they also frequently involve blazers and ties and skinny jeans and an attention to what shoes look good with what outfit that is unmatched by any other 12 year old I know, boy or girl.  Your interest in your hair is  boundless to a degree that borders on comical, and certainly outpaces the time and effort spent on hair by the other five people in this house combined.  Your care and concern for your hairdo was so well-known in your school in England, it was worked into the school play as a punchline.  (You DO have really great hair, though, I cannot deny that.)

I had assigned these stupid gender roles to little boys in my head that I soon learned were completely a product of what society had taught me and were in no way representative of what boys are and can be. 

You are a sensitive soul and you wear your emotions — all of them: joy, anger, sadness, fear — right on your sleeve.  Far more than your sister, actually, you are willing and able to say how you feel without embarrassment.  (Boys and girls don’t have to do things the way boys and girls have traditionally been told to do things.  Lesson learned.)

You love sports, yes, and you generally excel in all athletic endeavors, but you also love to dance.  You’re a really, really good dancer.  You dance all the time, and all the ways, including tap dance, which I love love love to see you do and which I need to find an instructor for here in Massachusetts so you can keep doing it.  (There are no activities for boys and for girls.  There are just activities, and any person can do any of them.  For real.)

You really do care and pay attention to fashion and style, unapologetically, and have done so since you were pretty little.  You have good taste and a good eye and you like to dress up, even if it’s just for a random Monday at school.  Given the choice, you’d take a suit and tie over soccer shorts and a hoodie.  (Fashion is not exclusive to girls. Looking good and wanting to look good isn’t girly.)

You defy expectations and you prove that boys are never one thing, just like girls aren’t.

Being a mother to a son has changed me in ways I never anticipated and I sorely needed.  Your very presence in my life, and the presence of your brothers after you, has made me a better, more well-rounded person with a more thorough understanding of boys and girls and the dynamic between them. 

In the last year, we’ve done some amazing things. We traveled of course, and visited a few new countries to add to your list: Austria, Spain (mainland), Belgium, the Netherlands, and Greece, and we visited some repeats that we loved and wanted to see again: France, Germany, Italy.  We have climbed on mountains and sailed across seas and explored cities and tried new foods and through it all you have maintained the same sense of wonder and gratitude that I so appreciate. 

But you also traveled alone on a school trip for eight days, driving across Europe to ski the Dolomites in Italy with your friends.  It was really hard to let you go, but we knew as soon as you got home that it had been so good for you.  You’d matured so much in your week away that it was physically imprinted on you and obvious in your manner from the moment you got off the bus.  It was one of those breath-taking instances of parenting when you literally see your baby grow.

Your dad and I have had multiple conversations about how proud we are of how mature you’ve become.  You easily and comfortably talk to anyone, children and adults alike, and you are thoughtful in what you say and you listen to what others are saying and you’re just enjoyable to be around.  Your siblings may argue that point, because you haven’t quite translated that behavior into your interactions with them all the time, but occasionally we get these glimpses of the grown-up versions of all of you hanging out together and I know we’ll get there in time and I really think it’s going to be fun.  You guys are awesome.

You’ve adapted really well to our big move home and another major transition to a new school and making new friends.  I know you miss England — you tell me, cause you talk about how you feel — but you also know that being here is great too.  You’ll always miss the people you can’t have right near you and it’s the curse of having been lucky enough to have lived there.  I’m grateful for social media that allows you to chat with your England friends pretty consistently and keep those friendships going.  You’ll always, always have a place there. (Not to mention some school records in the Sports Day cricket ball throw that I think could stand a while!)

You’ve thrown yourself into your new life, taking advantage of every opportunity to play with your cousins, to swim in our new pool, to explore our new home.  You are adapting to the new school really well, although that was always going to be the hardest part after the school you were in for the last three years.  You’ve been so helpful with the unpacking and the moving furniture and the painting walls and every last little bit of it. 

We’re looking ahead to a year full of adjustments and new and different adventures and I know you’ll face it all with the same optimism and confidence you bring to everything, and I know that, as I have for the last 12 years, I will be so grateful to view the world through your eyes and so proud to have you as my son.  Happy 12th birthday, Gabey baby.  I love you the most.

Unsettled

People keep asking us how we’re settling in and I keep saying really well.  It’s all going good, I say.  Still boxes to unpack of course, but we’ll get there.

But that’s not really the truth.

Some days I feel completely unsettled.  About as unsettled as you can get in a place you’ve known your whole life.  It’s disconcerting.

Some days I will be driving down the street (I got my license last week so, yay, I can drive now) and look around at just be so, so excited to be home.  And then on other days I look around and wonder why we ever left England.  I’m not settled.

The kids have been so excited to see their cousins all the time and meet the kids in the neighborhood and on their new teams and in their classes.  But they don’t have close, good friends yet.  And they miss their friends in England.  A lot.  And they really, really miss their school.  (So do I.)  They’re meeting people and they’re adjusting, but they’re not settled.

Matt’s on a new project and works mostly from home now for the first time ever.  He doesn’t know all the people he’s working with yet, he’s still getting spun up on the project, and he’s definitely learning that working from home requires a different kind of time management and that it’s super easy to get sucked into working ALL THE TIME when your office is next to your kitchen.  He’ll get there, but he’s not settled yet.

Our new house is amazing and gorgeous, but we’ve got rooms to paint and lots of furniture to buy because this place is much bigger than any house we’ve owned before and we just don’t have enough stuff to furnish all the rooms.  Almost every room still has at least a few unpacked boxes sitting in a corner while we wait for furniture we ordered to arrive or for us to have enough free time to paint the walls before we unpack the rest of the boxes.  I certainly didn’t expect to have the entire house in order in six weeks, but the unfinished projects and unpacked boxes are starting to weigh on me.

We’ve had three years in England of having a gardener who took care of our yard and now we’ve got a yard three times as big as the last one we had to care for ourselves.  And a pool that we didn’t know how to maintain.  We haven’t quite incorporated yard work into the schedule correctly yet.  It will take time, I know. 

The kids have had about two weeks of school now and while they’re happy, it’s just not the same. It’s not what they’re used to.  There’s a lot more sitting and less changing classes.  They bring lunch everyday, which means that instead of getting a delicious hot meal handmade in the school, they’re eating ham and cheese sandwiches and bags of pretzels.  There’s no sport in school and they only have a single hour a week of P.E., and I feel like they’re climbing the walls a bit when they get home.  

So we’re happy to be here. We’re just not settled.

Fourteenth

On Sunday, the day before your birthday, your new cousin was born: 7lb 6oz of tiny gorgeous perfect baby. Then on Monday you turned 14, and I sat at the hospital that morning holding the new little girl in our family who can basically fit in the palms of my hands and thinking of you, now nearly as tall as me and about to start high school and I could not begin to wrap my head around where the last fourteen years have gone. 

I looked at your aunt holding her brand new girl, exhausted and in love, and with all those years of parenting stretching out in front of her and I can’t lie, even though I know how all-encompassing and demanding and soul-consuming it is to have a new baby, I was jealous — I want eighteen more years with you before you go off and begin your own adventure, not four. I want every minute of the last fourteen years back to do over again because I have loved being your mother for all of it.  I look at you and I look at your beautiful new little cousin and I can exactly picture the moment you were born and I am just overwhelmed with how much has happened and how much changes and how fast it all seems to have gone by.

From the moment you have children, older parents tell you to enjoy every minute because it happens in a blink.  When you’re up four times a night nursing an infant, when you’re chasing after a wobbly toddler just learning to walk, when you’re buckling car seats and cutting up every bit of food into tiny bite-sized pieces and cleaning up toys for the millionth time a day, it’s easy to take the time for granted.  It’s easy to wish for the next stage, for the end of a long and tedious day. The days drag by, for sure; but it’s also true that the years fly.

If I’m being honest, I don’t really want to redo the baby years.  I love where we are now and who you’ve become and how all my kids are old enough that we can do really, really cool fun things all together.  But man, I want it to last forever, and I know it can’t.

Now you are about to start high school.  HIGH SCHOOL! You’ve grown up into this amazingly bright and intelligent person, with opinions on everything that are generally well-thought out and perceptive.  You’ve got a quick wit, a fantastic sense of humor (as long as you’re not the punchline of the joke), and a goofy side that makes me so happy when it appears.  You’re fun and you’re funny.  You’re organized and meticulous.  You’re smart and analytical.  You’re determined and brave.

You’re about to make yet another big transition to a new school, but I feel like the last move prepared you for this one; you know that even when you go in knowing no one, you’ll make friends and have amazing experiences.  I am so excited to see how you grow and change and thrive in this new place, just like you did in England. 

And as you’ve pointed out to me before, it’s easier here – we DO know people, we’re surrounded by family and friends and that makes it feel like home right away.  I really want to make sure that you feel rooted here as quickly as possible so that when you do head off to college in four short years, you know where home is without a doubt.

My girl, as you get ready to start the next chapter, here’s what I want you to remember:

Every place, every experience is what you make of it.  Go into it all with optimism and hope and make the best of everything even when things aren’t great. Speak your mind.  Try new things.  Be nice to your brothers even when you don’t want to be.  Be kind, be kind, be kind and be mindful of how your actions affect other people.  Remember how lucky we all are, in almost everything.   Use your talents for good.  Get enough sleep and exercise, even when it’s tempting to be a lazy teenager.  Be nice to your parents; remember we’re people too, with feelings and lives and ideas and goals.  Embrace what you love, regardless of what other people think.  

And more than any other thing, know how very much you are loved, right down to the core of who you are, right from the moment when you were that tiny baby I could hold in the palms of my hands, and always know how very, very grateful your dad and I are to be your parents.

Happy birthday baby girl.  I love you a bushel and a peck.

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