Willow…

I am not 100% sure how many times I paced the birthing room they had us wait in. I anxiously chewed on my fingers, checked the clock, and walked to the door to peek down the hall. I had been waiting my whole life for the two of you. Papa took me in his arms, hugged me tight, and we just held each other for a few moments. Both of us praying that you and Brody were ok as you made your way into the world. I reluctantly released Papa to check the hall for the 100th time. Only this time instead of empty beige walls, two nurses were rolling an isolette towards us. And in that isolette were two little heads covered by knit hats. My heart squeezed, my breath escaped, I turned back to Tony already crying. We clung to each other as they brought you into the room.

I didn’t know where to look first, my eyes and heart wanted to soak it all in as fast as possible. I touched both of your cheeks, committing your faces to memory. Just in case….

Much later,when the chaos had cleared, your Papa tore himself away to go check on Zoey (who was just a baby herself) and put her to bed. She was being cared for by family, but had never been away from us before.

Brody was fast asleep next to me. The nurse finished your bath and placed you in my arms so that I could hold you skin to skin. For the billionth time that day I reminded myself to be careful, you weren’t mine yet… I had heard so many awful stories… Everybody told me over and over to shield my heart as much as possible. You weighed 6 pounds and 1 ounce, but somehow seemed so much bigger. With your head laying over my heart, you let out a sigh, it had been a big day, and in that moment I knew what had been true since the moment I heard about you. I was yours, I had never shielded my heart, I had fooled myself, but the reality was you were my daughter before I ever knew you were coming.

I have spent the last 5 and half years watching you blossom and grow into this spectacular force that stands before me in my kitchen, hands on her hips, stubborn pout on her face, as she justifies why her twin brother is tied to his bed.

You are the smallest of your siblings, but you are also by far the bravest. You need to climb the highest, jump the farthest, and run the fastest. Nothing scares you, and that terrifies me. I worry sometimes that I take your independence and strength for granted, that I forget that you are still just a little kid, so I get taken aback when you do need to run and hide in my arms and bury your face in my neck. I am always going to be humbled to be your safe place.

I think about the indominable spirit that lives in your tiny little frame. You have already conquered so much. To think that not too long ago you could barely see out of one eye. You have tolerated hours and hours of eye therapy every night, eye patches, exercises, headaches, doctors, and frustration. All tough stuff for even grown ups to deal with, but you are conquering it all. Your vision made recognizing letters, shapes, and numbers difficult. Somehow you have not only conquered your visual challenges, but you have managed to catch up in record time, and soon you will start reading.

I look at you sometimes and I wish I was half what you already are.

I know these days are numbered, days when you still want to be around me, to hold my hand, the butterfly and snow man kisses you give as we listen to Papa sing his lullabies at night. I wish I could hold onto them for just a little longer, but I know that is selfish. I am also excited to see what you do next, to see who you grow into. 100% for sure you are going to continue to be spectacular.

So my little Brown Eyed Girl… my mighty Willow tree… thank you from the bottom of my heart for choosing me to be your Daddy. I aspire to be the man you think I am. I love you with everything I am.

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Summa, Summa, Summa Tiiiiime

Summer is here!!! Yay… woo and hoo… Listen, if you’re like me (and I assume you at least aspire to be) you are probably living your best life right now. Just filling your days with super fun activities. Me and my little horde started a garden so that we can make our own calming aroma therapy sprays, There is nothing like getting your hands into the earth and you know… gardening or whatever. We spend our days combing the beach to add to our sea shell collection. That is, when we are not keeping up on our academics. We try to hit at least 3 museums a week.

Ok ok ok… I respect you too much to lie to you. We are basically just phoning it in. My kids have been sleeping in until at least 800 a.m., and it is glorious. My younger daughter informed me that she doesn’t hate showers anymore. That might have something to do with the fact that she hasn’t had one since school let out 2 weeks ago. What? She is in the pool EVERY DAY. I have learned a few things about life the past couple of weeks. Like Pop tarts will not ACTUALLY kill your kids, or no matter how many times I make eye contact with them, and assure them I am paying attention, they will say, “watch me” 5,000 times before they do whatever trick they want me to see.

The biggest lesson I have learned this summer, and this is tough to admit, I …. hate playing. I know… it came as a shock to me too. I am basically a giant man baby who should not be left unsupervised. When Tony comes home from the station I am pretty sure that he is just as surprised as I am that the house is not on fire. To clarify, I love the chasing, the tickling, the wrestling… but the rest of it? Thumbs down.

Normally I could just accept my shortcomings and be confident in the fact that I am at least mediocre in the rest of the parenting arenas, But thanks to my husband, that isn’t an option. You see HE is GREAT at playing. He will drop whatever he is doing to build a space fort, or a Barbie princess tent, or play a made up game where the rules change every 5 seconds. And he… LIKES it. Now before you get a sappy grin on your face, and let out the inevitable “awwww”, can we at least take into consideration how this impacts me? I have given my very life force to these children. I smile all the time at the things they do, and the things they make. God knows I do not have the collagen left in my face to be smiling all day. I should be resting my facial muscles. And do you know how many times a day I wipe their butts???? I am TOO invested to just let him have the title of “Favorite Parent”.

Just yesterday my daughter handed me a doll, “That’s King Ben, you need to be the dad”. Apparently she didn’t appreciate my diatribe about toxic masculinity and the outdated patriarchal institutions that further enslave us as a society, because 5 minutes into it she asked if she could be excused to go clean her room and eat her vegetables. “It’s ok Daddy, I’ll just wait until Papa gets home to play this game.” My son will saunter into a room, “Where’s Papa? I want to play Vampire Ninja Space Detective!!” I’ll play with you Buddy. “Uh…. well…. that’s ok Daddy, how about if I just yell for you like I am on fire when I need to be fed/hugged/can’t find something/ or you want to sit down for 5 seconds?”

Tony, bless his heart… he will try to throw me a bone. He will offer to take over the scheduling, and the cleaning, and the cooking, etc. so that I can be the fun Dad for awhile. And I appreciate it. He just does it all wrong (i.e. not the way I do it), and despite what you might think, you can’t just fold towels any way you want. There is a code. And that code must be followed.

Sigh… I will admit that watching this big giant man hold the tiniest plastic tea cup, pinky outstretched, with a princess Tiara on his head is beyond adorable. Ok, and maybe watching him patiently explain to Brody why he needs a “blah blah blah” to build his space fort makes me involuntarily smile. And you know… I do have enough leverage (in the form of video footage of him dancing and twirling to Disney songs) to comfortably keep me in trips to Target for a lifetime. Maybe this arrangement isn’t that bad.

I guess we can’t be everything to our kids, and luckily for all of us I don’t have to be. Besides, I guess if I really want my kids attention all I have to do is go to the bathroom by myself.

Dear Mrs. F_____, a letter to my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher.

Dear Mrs. F_____,

Since before my kids were born, before they were even conceived, I dreaded the day I would have to turn them over to you…. or rather the concept of you.

It’s probably pretty obvious that we didn’t just decide to get pregnant, we had to fight insurmountable odds to become dads, and while I don’t think that makes us better or worse parents, I think that anyone who has to work through infertility has a different appreciation for what it all means. And also, for me at least, it has made it harder to let go of them.

So on top of the standard first day of Kindergarten worries, we came to you that first day filled with additional fears. We had heard awful stories of homophobic / bigoted educators treating the children of our tribe abhorrently. And up until this point if my daughter were to be exposed to prejudice about who her parents are, her siblings’ skin color, her gender, or whatever, we were there to protect her.

To say we were filled with anxiety is an understatement. Turning Zoey over to you was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life. I smiled and waved, feigning bravery so she would be ok, but as we turned to leave, it felt like I had handed you my soul…and was somehow supposed to walk away.

Because of who you are though, I was put at ease much quicker than I would have imagined possible. It wasn’t long until I KNEW my daughter was safe with you. I felt it, I believed it… and I could breathe. I can find no words that adequately express how much that means to us… to me.

In the 2nd or 3rd week of school Zoey was still having a hard time, and one morning she was crying pretty hard. I was at a loss and was just about to take her home. Then you offered her your hand and a smile, and instantly she was ok enough to go in.

After that she quickly went from crying in the mornings about leaving me, to crying in the afternoons because she missed you. While it stung, and I silently cursed your name, I was grateful. Because that meant SHE knew she was safe with you. SHE trusted you. And I was able to relax.

As an added bonus, I watched my daughter THRIVE this year. I have watched her fall in love with school and learning, and I have watched her confidence soar, all because of you. So from the bottom of my heart I thank you. I thank you for being an excellent teacher and an incredible person.

And next Fall, when we again turn over our babies to you and Mrs. K, just know I will still be nervous for them… I will still worry that kids will be mean, or they won’t eat right, or that they will be scared… but what I wont be worrying about is if they are safe. I will know, without a doubt, that you and Laura have them. That they are safe with you both. That all of your kids are. And that they will have an amazing year. I am so incredibly grateful for that.

So next year when I’m emailing you to see if Brody is still crying because he misses us, or if Willow knows where the bathroom is, or if they are scared, just remind me to park the helicopter. I know you got this.

With all my Deepest Respect and Affection,

Zoey’s Dad

#girldad

There is a lot on the old interweb about “Boy moms” right now, and how tough it can be to raise the Tasmanian devils that seem to possess our little guys 90% of the time. Hell, my husband and I WERE little boys and yet Brody often baffles us. So to the boy moms out there, I feel you…. I do… but let me tell you, being a girl dad isn’t all Wonder Woman dress up tea parties and giggles. The screams alone can be deafening. And have you ever had to clean poop out of somebody else’s vagina?

As a young gayling growing up in the 1980s… ahem…late 90s rather, I was pretty sure the female anatomy would forever remain a mystery to me. I definitely never imagined that I would be having daily arguments with little people about keeping their vaginas healthy and itch-free. I mean… it seems to me like the first time not wiping/ washing/ etc. didn’t work out, you would want to do better. But nope, every day we get to argue about whether or not the, “It’s my body. It’s my choice” rule applies to wiping and washing.

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The squealing… it’s constant. They squeal when they are happy, when they are sad, when they are furious, when they see a pony, if someone looks like Wonder Woman, or if they are on fire. If you are not careful you will find yourself running up the stairs every 30 seconds convinced their limbs have been severed. That’s why I am developing a device that differentiates the sub sonic sounds into threat levels. That way you know what level of intervention is necessary. By the way, I will crazy murder, and finger paint in the blood of, anyone who tries to steal my idea. Patent Pending

Just yesterday I overheard my poor husband and my 6 year old in a heated conversation. Zoey had gestured to a pile of dolls, and asked Tony to hand her the Belle doll. Here is where he went wrong, he then asked her which doll was Belle… Zoey was INCENSED.

Z: Are you trying to be funny Papa? Belle, from Beauty and the Beast…

P: I understand your words honey, but I don’t know who that is!

Z: SHE’S BELLE!!!!! She’s like only my 906th favorite doll in the whole world!!!!!!

Now at this point I should have intervened and rescued him, but I have a strict policy against interacting with them when they are like that unless I absolutely have to. Plus, if IIIIIII have to know all of the princesses, super hero girls, super hero princess girls, or whatever, so does he.

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They cry a lot. I mean like an EXORBITANT amount. I am continuously pushing fluids into them because I fear dehydration. My girls will cry because they are sitting too far away from each other, or because they are too close and breathing on each other. Willow cried last night because her brother went into the bathroom she was thinking about using. Oh yeah, and yesterday they both threw a legit FIT over having to share their Pretty Princess dress up tiaras, boas, and costume jewelry. I was like calm down, we share in this house…. and I just put this stuff on.

The things they want to play are extremely complicated, much like trying to navigate the minefield of their emotions. You need a script, a back story, and a 20 minute class before you even get started. And even though you think you are prepared, inevitably you will draw their anger because they changed said script, and you just unwittingly killed Princess Barbie Power Monster or whatever. Nothing makes the back of my hair stand up like hearing, “Daddy, will you play with me?” Not even if it would cure cancer…. is something I think, but never say because I am obsessively afraid that might make them grow up to be a stripper.

They both know every one of my buttons and heart strings, and are not afraid to use them against me. And just when I think my eardrums are going to burst from the volume of her shrieks… she wraps her little arms around my neck, and whispers in my ear “You’re the best Daddy in the whole world.”, and I know without a doubt that I will play dolls, or make-up, or fashion show, or anything else their amazing little imaginations desire. Because nothing beats butterfly kisses, or watching them twirl around in the sun, giggling because of the way their dresses spin. There is no greater feeling in the world then they take your hand and smile up at you.

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Actually, you know what? I take it back, being a #girldad is the best thing I have ever done. I wouldn’t change a single thing. Well… except that bit about the squealing.

Ah… summer time…

Can we all agree that now that the weather is warm, and people are opening doors and windows, that we are all going to just pretend not to hear each other screaming bloody murder at our kids? Every summer all my neighbors get a bouquet of flowers, plate of chocolate chip cookies, and a card that says, “Brace yourself. It’s gonna be loud.” I feel like it’s just a fun little way to remind them not to call CPS every day.

Still, despite my best efforts, there seems to be one or two that cannot decipher societal norms. Unfortunately they are also the ones who conveniently seem to be jogging, or walking their dog, by my house when I am outside with my kids. Never when I am inside… hiding from them… you know, behind the curtains.

Let’s talk about old man Bob. Bob walks his 3 geriatric dogs 97 times a day. Every day. So for the next ninety something days of summer break I get to participate in the following daily exchange:

“Oh hey there Hurleys! Imagine running into you here. Outside of your house. In summer. So what was B getting into this morning? That W sure does sound like a scamp! Is Z still putting glue in her brother’s hair?”

Move it along Bob, nothing to see here. Besides, I think the acoustics are such that you hear better from your house. I mean, I assume that’s why you can hear me from so far away, but the demon horde living in our home can’t hear me from the next room.

I sort of feel like I should be wearing a body cam. If for no other reason than to prove that I start the day as Mary Poppins. Joan Crawford is just where we inevitably end up.

qMary Poppins Short TakesWalt Disney Films
Mommy-Dearest Paramount Pictures

Our neighbor Joyce is THE worst though. She wants to be all “judgey” just because she lives 3 blocks away, and can still hear me yelling at my captors. She’s a single mom and only has one kid. While we hear a lot about her 9 year old’s accomplishments, we don’t see much of her as she is allergic to sunlight, grass, dirt, concrete, and fresh air. Also, she is apparently busy working on being the next 9 year old to get into Princeton…. or whatever. Joyce really chaps my hide.

“You know, if you gently redirect them to a positive activity you don’t have to yell. Yelling is the same thing as locking them in a dungeon, or tying them to a sticker bush. 100% for sure it will turn them into drug addicts.”

Hey Joyce, how about you refocus yourself on down the road? Be sure NOT to look both ways when crossing the street. Hee Hee. Not kidding. I despise you.

I think this summer, if we hear our neighbors getting loud with their kids, we should just send over a sheet cake with, “You’re doing great! Only ___ more days till school!” written on it. Unless it’s that Joyce. If you hear her yelling, record it and send it to Princeton Admissions. That’ll teach her.

All The Help I Can Get

I have been reading a lot lately about how easy 70’s, 80s, and 90s moms had it. I get it. I mean nobody had CPS on speed dial, a pediatric consult wasn’t required before making snacks for your daughter’s Girl Scout meeting, intolerable play dates were not a thing because you just opened the door and pointed them toward the park or… patch of grass… or street… or whatever. OH OH OH… and in the 90’s at least, the clothing was baggy and less binding. I guess they did have it pretty sweet.

But… could they turn on the T.V. from their phones while hiding in the bathroom?!? No Becky they could not. And too bad because this is a magical, game changing, life saving tool. I can turn on the television, put on The Magic School Bus, control the volume, and summon my kids away from whatever they are destroying. All while huddled in my shower scrolling social media.

I know that the “good parents” are going to chime in with how we are supposed to limit their screen time. Mmmmm hmmm… but look my floors need to get done, and I am not creative enough to pull off some sort of crafting adventure, or reading scavenger hunt. Also, I suspect those crunchy “good moms” might be swiping their kids Adderall. I am just saying that level of involvement and time commitment on Pinterest, just to keep them occupied in order to clean up whatever is sticky at that moment, isn’t occurring in nature. My guess is Adderrall…. or the devil. Guuuuurl you know I don’t judge. I would seriously sell my soul myself to be rested enough and to poop alone.

Let me back up a little bit to when I was about 6 and my mother and I were at K-mart. She was talking to the lady in customer service and the man ahead of us had just put out a cigarette in the ashtray. Yes, that’s how old I am. They let you smoke in K-mart way back then. Or maybe that was just in Butthole, Louisiana? Anyway, I could see that it was still lit and I was curious. So what did little 6 year old Mikey do? I reached down and put that used nasty cigarette butt IN MY MOUTH and inhaled. I then proceeded to cough so hard that I puked. I did not stop puking until long after we frantically made it to the parking lot. I think that might even be how I caught the gay (J.K. don’t email me)! You know what would have avoided that? An iPad.

I am not kidding. You give my kid their pad for 10 minutes and they will barely move. So until someone takes my suggestion seriously that chloroform air vents be optional in all mini vans and SUVs, the iPad is gold. Say what you will, but did you know there are 5 dwarf planets in our solar system? Because my 5 year old son does. He can name them and tell you anything you want to know about them. You know why he knows that Becky? iPad. My girls are obsessed with pretending to be Kacy Catanzaro from American Ninja Warrior. She is this incredibly strong female athlete my girls worship, you know how they found her? You guessed it. iPad. So let’s all stop pretending like we aren’t at least tempted to glue those things to their hands some days.

Oh and I was just reading that we can track our kids while they are out of our sight! You guys…. we can put GPS on our children! I guess we SHOULD be shoving them out the door to go explore like previous generations of moms and dads, I mean we have access to satellite imaging and NASA technology for the love of Kelly Clarkson! Alas, we could never do that though could we? No we could not. A huge sarcastic thank you sent out to Detectives Stabler and Benson and the creators of Law and Order SVU. Life ruiners the whole lot of them (Just kidding Chris Meloni please answer my letters).

It does seem like there is a lot of pressure on parents today, we have to somehow feed, clothe, and nurture our babies, while at the same time keeping them safe from a world that appears to be infinitely more dangerous than the one we grew up in. We know too much about the damaging effects of… everything. It is all so incredibly daunting. So grab your phone, head into the bathroom, crawl into the tub, and cast Paw Patrol to the T.V. while you scroll through Facebook or that Snapogram. Give yourself 10 minutes of peace. It is ok to make your life easier sometimes. I promise.

Releasing…. me.

Mother’s day has me feeling conflicting emotions. My husband and I split up the two holidays, so I am excited about my homemade surprises. And…. sigh… I don’t talk to my mother. Ever. In fact, we haven’t spoken in almost a year and a half.

It is still hard for me to say that out loud sometimes. You see my whole life my mother and I appeared incredibly close. From the outside we looked like we were doing ok, but the reality is that we were incredibly enmeshed. Our relationship was toxic, smothering, and debilitating. My mom was a single teenager when I was born. My father split when the egg did and she and I bounced around from state to state, city to city, following her over bearing and emotionally abusive father. My grandfather was mean, and he enjoyed being mean. My mother not only let him intimidate, bully, and humiliate her, she never stopped him when he turned on me. Growing up we either lived with him, or we were alone with no other family near. My mother cast me as her main emotional support at a very young age. Which made me feel very important. I was her plus one at Office Christmas parties, I was her “best friend”, I was “her rock”, and when her world fell apart when I was 13, she only leaned on me. I was her primary confidant and protector. But my main job was to make sure she felt like she was keeping it all together. So I created these “super mom” fantasies that I would share with people. I told these stories for decades and somewhere along the line started to believe them, it wasn’t until last year that I realized they were not true

By the time I was a teenager I was desperate to escape the noise in my head and my mother’s expectations. Like a lot of traumatized teens I actively sought drugs as an escape. And it worked. For a while. At first all of the voices in my head that beat me up with my Grandfather’s words were silent. I had found a way to find a little bit of freedom. Or so I thought. In the beginning when I could stop I didn’t want to, and by the time I was ready to stop I couldn’t. My life had started to snowball out of control faster than I could lower my standards. What’s really fucked up is that the bigger mess I became, the more dependent I became on my toxic family. To the outside it looked like my mother was a paragon. This woman was supporting her worthless son, standing by him as he bounced around. And in many ways it was true. I was a complete mess. And I was truly convinced that was all I was meant to be.

My life hit bottom several times. But something inside me changed and on July 10, 2005 I put down the meth pipe and said enough. I went to rehab through the state and got clean. At the time it was the hardest thing I had ever done. Everyday was a fight to stay away from the needle or pipe. I enrolled in Community College and discovered something I never even imagined could be true. I was smart. I spent the first year and a half of my college experience convinced that I was running some sort of a scam. That it was a mistake that every quarter I was on the Dean’s list. I could not comprehend that I was making this happen, so I gave all the credit for my recovery and my educational accomplishments to my mother. Because I truly believed it was her love that was allowing me to do this.

I left Community College and went on to a four year University. I continued to do well and I continued to give my mother the credit. When I graduated I was in my 30s and my mother was still not ready to let me go. When I moved out she cried. She called me 10 times a day. Every day. The relief I felt was IMMEASURABLE, but still I was tethered to her by her emotional guilt. It is not normal to go into a legit panic every time your phone rings or alerts because it might be your mother. During this time I met and fell in love with Tony. As we started to get closer, my mother expressed her disappointment that she was no longer number one.

When Tony and I started having kids, she tried to insinuate and weave her way into this as well. Something inside me started to awaken. When the twins were born Z was 13 months old. To say we were overwhelmed is a massive understatement. Tony would get so frustrated with me. “WE ARE EXHAUSTED!!! WHY DO YOU NOT LET YOUR MOM HELP US?!?” The last thing I wanted was my mother. I didn’t think about it, I was unwilling to talk about why, I just didn’t address it all. BUT I also wouldn’t budge. What I know now is that having kids, becoming mama bear, awakened my protective instincts. Her attachment to my kids was intense. Her expectation of her relationship with them was too much. She wanted to be the primary female role model in their lives and sabotaged their relationship with other women. She manipulated me into doing things I didn’t want to do. I was under so much pressure that I was a constant anxious mess. The thought of having to communicate with her, or her husband would cause me to have daily heartburn. My blood pressure was off the charts. My husband and I would have huge arguments about her, and even though I knew he was right, I would defend her.

My mother married a man when I was a teenager that I never really liked. She unintentionally pitted us against each other from the beginning, and we remained in passive aggressively adversarial roles for the remainder.

My stepfather is a rightwing conservative and even though he expressed his support for our family, early on in the last election cycle he started parroting some of the anti-gay rhetoric that was spouted by some conservatives. My mother would claim to be “Switzerland”, she would tell anyone who would listen that she is staying out of it. But when he would say awful things she would beg me to let it go. She would defend him, “That’s not what he meant… You’re taking it out of context…” all of the things she did when I was a child. And sadly I let her. For a long time I was too brainwashed by her messages, by the messages of society that you love your family no matter what. I sat across from him in my home pretending he wasn’t a bigot. I let her manipulate and pull my strings so that she got to live her super grandma fantasy.

Society tells us in a million ways that we must always be loyal to our family. We are always supposed to respect and cherish our parents. The idea that adult children might need to escape the gravitational pull of their toxic family members is UNFATHOMABLE to most people, a belief they are not afraid to tell you about. To beat you over the head with. And this can help to keep you feeling trapped.

Until one day I snapped. I just had this epiphany… I did not care if it made me an asshole. I did not care if I was the worst person on earth. I was done. I had spent 10 years in therapy refusing to even discuss my mother, bouncing to the next clinician whenever my current one would start pushing the subject, and yet I was resentful that I couldn’t find peace. All of the sudden though I was done. I could not do it anymore. I cut all ties. I started intensive therapy and severed the umbilical chord.

I almost lost my mind. I almost gave up and went back hundreds of times. Letting go of that toxic relationship was harder that getting clean. Luckily my husband held me up as I found my footing. Almost immediately there was relief, like true and legitimate relief, and luckily it was more powerful than the crushing guilt 42 years of brainwashing and conditioning brings. I was free.

My mother did not let go easily, but every second I was away from her I got stronger. My anxiety vanished. I looked back and was able to see that I got myself clean, not my mother. I graduated from college with honors, not my mother. I had a beautiful family, and amazing husband, and wonderful kids because I DID THE WORK, not because of who my mother was.

I want to be clear that my mother is not a bad person. She was young when she had me, her childhood was awful, she did not have things easy. She did not have great role models. However, her choices impacted more than herself. She made some horribly selfish decisions, and I carry the consequences with me, and in order to free myself of that I need to love her from a far.

I know there are people out there who are taking more than they should from toxic family members because of the lie that we are force fed from birth that family always sticks together. I am here to tell you that is bullshit. You are allowed to severe those ties. Not all families deserve your loyalty, you do not owe anyone your discomfort or pain. You are allowed to be free. You can reach down and undo the tether. You can soar.

Ugh… effing nature

You guys… he wants me to “camp”. Like in nature! Seriously he is planning on dragging me out into the legit forest, or the jungle, or whatever. I’m not 100% sure what the difference is. What I DO know is there are bugs and dirt there. And I think we can all agree nothing good happens in the woods.

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Credit: Warner Brothers

Let me give you a little background on my childhood camping experience. There is none. In fact, when Tony and I met he tried to trick me into becoming an “outside person”. We were newly dating and I was still successfully keeping all my crazy tucked in.  Also he’s a hot firefighter, so I was willing to put myself in danger for love. With much repidation, and feigned excitement, I consented to try this camping thing he kept going on about.

On our first trip Tony had all of our supplies purchased, he loaded up the truck, and even bought me some really cute sandals. When we arrived I put on my best “can do” face and pretended to be enthusiastic as I asked how I could help. You can imagine my glee when he pointed to a chair and told me to sit down. He built the little tent, he made the fire, he organized and set up the… you know…. other things. He did it all. He brought torches to keep bugs away, he made me a beautiful dinner, and the next day he drove me into civilization to eat indoors. It was all very “Brokeback Mountain”. I enthusiastically agreed to go again.

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Credit: AP/Focus Features, Kimberly French

On our second camping trip I grabbed and unfolded a camping chair as soon as we got there. I was thinking to myself that I would let go of the fact that I was unfolding my own chair. I mean he seemed very busy. As I settled in I called out my faux offer to help as I put my feet up. “Sure! Can you gather kindling?”, he yelled back. After finding out that “kindling” is just an outdoorsy way of saying little sticks, I went ahead and did my part. Still despite the hardships I was able to enjoy myself. I even learned that you can see the stars at night out there in the wild! Seriously, it’s not just a made up thing on T.V.!!!

Our third trip… that’s where it all fell apart. My shoes…. my beautiful shoes were taken from us in a devastating mud mishap. I …sob escapes… I had to make the ultimate sacrifice and leave them behind in the quicksand to save myself. Tony was so impacted by witnessing this tragedy that he drove us directly to the mall and replaced them upon returning to civilization.

OH! Let me tell you about the showers. They were abysmal. I had barely rinsed the all natural, vegan, gluten free coconut scrub off my face when the water turned frigid. As I reached to adjust the knob, I was confronted by a black widow spider hanging near my face. I turned to flee and my shower shoe caught the edge of the shower stall and I was airborne. Luckily there was concrete to break my fall.

Later, during our afternoon hike (Yes, the fateful hike that took my shoes), I was chased through the forest by a bear. Ok, ok, ok… it was a chipmunk, but he was aggressive! In fact Tony nearly lost a leg because of that little shit, but more about that later. But worst of all, he made me do stuff! Like work stuff! As you can imagine I shut that shit down. We had been dating long enough by this time that I was pretty sure he was hooked. I mean I had slowly started introducing him to all my other personalities and he was doing a good job at rolling with it. Anyway that was our last camping trip. For awhile.

A few years ago one of our very best friends gave me a trip to See Sam Smith at an outdoor concert venue that boasts a camping site. Seriously… they are super proud of it and people love it. Our friend even bravely offered to take care of the kids! You might wonder how I was convinced to go back into nature after the shoe trauma of our previous trip. I know. It was tough, however I soldiered on.

Also, I was desperate to get away from my kids. I love them, but we had been together EVERY DAY for YEARS. We all deserved a little break.

Oh and of course camping had evolved. And we were able to eat at restaurants and go to the movies. #Glamping

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But now… now he wants me to go into the forest again. And this time he wants me to bring our kids!!! Listen, they don’t just give you the title Helicopter Dad, you have to earn it. Can you imagine what that’s going to be like out there in the jungle? I mean does he not remember what happened to my shoes?

Pray for me y’all.

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