Raising WMAs

I was born to a middle-class, white, married couple in 1978 in a safe, conservative town in Michigan.  My parents are still married almost forty years later, and they still live in the home I grew up in, and they still have good jobs, and because they are smart with their money, they are comfortable.

I have never been afraid that we would lose our home.

I have never wondered if I would get food on any given day.

No one has ever assumed I was a less-worthy person or a scary person or a violent person based on my looks or my school or my background.

I have occasionally been told I can’t do something because I am female, but it’s never been a real barrier that I believed actually hindered me in achieving anything I really wanted to do.

Had I wanted to, I could have been just about anything I was talented enough to become.

I won the lottery by being born.

Why?

Why me?  Why did I get so lucky?

My sons were born to a middle-class, married couple in today’s society. We live in that same safe, conservative town that Cort and I grew up in.  We are both employed. We are trying to be smart with our money, and although we feel like things are tight, in the grand scheme of things, we are comfortable.

Our boys have never felt (and we hope they won’t) the anxiety of adult worries about shelter or food or clothing.  They are very comfortable.

Plus they are boys.  White boys.  Who will become White Men.  In America.

White Male Americans.

The Jackpot in this world.

They will not know what it feels like to be suspected of ill-intent because of the color of their skin.  They will not feel the assumption of failure because of their home life.  They will not be assumed guilty until proven innocent because they are “those people”.

They won the lottery by being born.

This bothers me.

Winning a lottery should feel good.  This does not.

I have friends, students, even family who I know have certain struggles solely because society views them differently than they view my boys.  Even if it’s subconsciously so.

Racism is alive and kicking in the United States and it hurts my heart when I read about friends’ sense of belonging questioned because of the color of their skin.  When their honesty is questioned because people have clumped them into “those people”.  You know how “those people” can be.

No. I don’t.  “Those people” are my friends…my family…and they would give you the clothes off their back if they knew you were in need.

Eddie and Charlie will automatically get a pass from cops on certain suspicions.  They will have a better chance of becoming President.

I am not saying people can’t work hard to beat the odds and make it happen.  Look at President Obama.  But he had odds to beat.  My sons don’t.

I’m also not saying my sons will have everything super easy.  They may not.  In fact, I am sure there will be things that are hard or challenges or obstacles they will have to overcome…or fall to.  But they are not built into the way our society thinks.

Instead of only celebrating this “lottery” we have won (because, yes, I am grateful), I find it an enormous responsibility.

As a woman, how many times in college did I whine about how everything we read was by dead white guys?  I longed for more female voices.  I also longed for diversity.

I couldn’t take a social studies class…or read the news today…without shaking my head at the messes that white men have made (yes, other people make/made messes too, but if you look at the US track record? White men outnumber all the other people in horrible things).

I don’t want my sons to turn into arrogant, self-centered white boys.

I don’t want my sons to be part of the mess, but rather part of the clean-up and resolution.

I read a post this week about talking with your children about race.  I thought about it.  Eddie and Charlie have black cousins.  They have a Hispanic aunt.  They have Cort’s cousins who are all different races.  They visit me at school and see the huge amount of diversity of the student body I work with.  Eddie knows Baby  (his doll) has beautiful brown skin like his cousins.   It means nothing to him.

He sees it, he appreciates it, and then he moves on because it doesn’t impact him.  He hasn’t gotten society’s views engrained in his mind yet.

When did I first think skin color meant someone could be different than I am?  Did someone bring it up?  Did I hear someone I trust and respect make an off-color joke?

I remember my grandpa having a black baby doll he found and referring to it as a N- baby and my parents getting very upset.  It’s the first memory I have of it being important not to call someone a name just because their skin is different than mine.  But I also didn’t have many people around me who were different.

Do I need to call my son’s attention to race to teach them about it?

They will someday be white men.  White men that Cort and I raised.

I don’t want them to be sensitive to race.  I don’t want race to be anything to them other than something on a family tree that shows where people come from.

But that would be a naive way to parent them.  Right?

They will have to know about the struggles and the challenges that their non-white brothers and sisters in humanity have to battle.

And I hope I can teach them to see the battle, and stand firmly beside their friends and family who are fighting and take a stand too. Until the battle is won.

He won the lottery by being born
Big hand slapped a white male American
Do no wrong, so clean cut…
Dirty his hands, it comes right off.*

 *Lyrics by Pearl Jam from the song “WMA”.

on bedtime and becoming moot

Bedtime with Eddie has never been anything remotely what I would consider falling under the definition of “easy”.

I’ve lamented this all over this blog.

When he was a colicky baby, Cort and I would say to each other, “It can’t last forever, right?” And it didn’t. But bedtime didn’t get easier.

When he was sobby and clingy and needed to rock for over an HOUR at bedtime we would argue about whose “turn” it was and how it wouldn’t last forever and that when he was older we wouldn’t put up with this “shit”.

When he moved to a Big Boy Bed and got up one kazillion times we would rub our faces and pull our hair and whine about whose turn it was to bring him down to bed.  Whoever wasn’t on the verge of punching a wall “won”.

This week Cort came upstairs after an hour with Eddie.  Eddie came upstairs for some ridiculous reason (booger on his finger? fuzzy on his floor?  Llama Llama giving him the stink eye? Who knows), and Cort burst out, “THIS IS NOT HOW IT SHOULD BE!  BEDTIME ISN’T SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THIS!”

Eddie’s thing lately is that he wants us to “lay by me a yiddle bit.”  But what that really means is just lay here and I will talk and goof around until you fall asleep in my bed. Then I will fall asleep and daddy will have to come get you at 10pm because it’s time for you to go to bed.

It’s stalling.

Sort of.

Eddie is three and a half.  He knows what is expected at bedtime.

When it’s nap time, he will say, “Mom. Naptime.” And we will go down, he will crawl into bed, I will tuck him in and kiss him and that is that.  He knows how to go to sleep.

Bedtime is…different for him.

I don’t really know why, but I think it has to do with the dark and his mind working and how he processes everything.

That boy thinks a LOT.

Anyway, when Cort found the end of his rope, I realized that if I could? I would crawl into bed with Eddie every night and fall asleep next to  him until my bedtime.

Tonight, we read two books and then talked about those two books.

Then he had to poop (which is his regular time as of late. He’s like a little old man), but when he came back, he asked me (again) when we could have another baby in our family. (not for a LONG time, little man).

That brought him to asking how God puts babies in a mommy’s tummy anyway, and how does he pick if it’s a boy or a girl? And maybe we should leave God a note on the wall with a cookie and asking him for a baby sister. Also? God doesn’t have a beard because beard’s are weird and God is not weird.

He didn’t stop there. Nope. Then he began questioning why God and Jesus had to live in a barn (the Christmas story is still fresh in his mind) and sleep on hay and was there baby food there for Jesus? And did he have baby toys? Because goats are not good toys.

Around 9pm (an hour after we started this bedtime adventure), he asked if he could read books.  I said sure, and I kissed him and turned his light on and said goodnight.

He was good.  Until he found a Llama Llama book.  He loves these books.  But not having them live in his room.  He thinks Llama Llama is giving him stink eye. So he brought it up to me.

We had some more set-backs tonight due to a sore knee (he fell on some ice today) and some “I don’t like the dark or the shadows,” but after some dad time, he is all set.

I really do like cuddling him until we both fall asleep.

Because really? Like Cortney and I always say (usually in exasperation), “it won’t last forever.”

Someday I won’t be able to lie there with him…and he won’t want me to.

I won’t be able to feel his feet start to rub together and hear his breathing slow.

He won’t turn into me while letting his hand go limp, releasing Lamby onto the pillow next to him.

My presence won’t be needed to comfort him in the darkness and shadows.

He’s getting so big, that these little boy moments wash over me suddenly and remind me of how time keeps on trucking…and takes the babies and the little boys and turns them into teenagers and men.

Teenagers and men who don’t need their mommies to snuggle them and talk out their worries and their fears.

Because by snuggling him and reassuring him now, I am raising him to be a man who is fearless and confident.

I am working to make myself unnecessary.

It is both beautiful and heartbreaking.

But that is motherhood, right? In order to be a success, you have to become moot.

So instead of complaining and whining about how my boy needs me at night, I am going to let him need me…and be Ok with it.  Because I am his mom and he is three and it is my job–right now–to be needed.

Subtle Shifts

It didn’t happen all at once.

It never does.

But this weekend we finally were blessed with a slow, no agenda Saturday so I decided to do one of my good Saturday House Cleanings that I haven’t been able to do in months.  You know, scrub everything really well all at once.  The kind of clean that when you go outside to get the mail and come back in it smells like a mixture of lemon Pledge and Windex? Yeah, it was awesome.

But once I had the house all cleaned, and Charlie was napping and Cort and Eddie were outside, I saw what had happened while I bustle through our days.

The subtle shifts that have been happening in our house.

Once all the toys had been properly put away to make room for vacuuming and dusting, I saw the empty space where the baby swing once stood.

I saw the spot next to the couch where we used to keep the bounce seat.

I noticed that I could see our side table’s shelf with a picture of Cort and me because it wasn’t covered by the boppy or the bumbo seat.

The chunky trucks Eddie used to play with were long stashed in a drawer and out the table was a magnetic “discovery” truck set that involved fitting pieces together.

In the past nine weeks that I have been back to work, my infant very slowly morphed into a clapping, laughing, rolling, army-crawling baby.

When I wasn’t looking, my toddler ditched his diapers and his squeeze tubes of yogurt and grew right up into a Big Boy.

My baby feeds himself puffs and melon and banana.

My big boy assembles trucks and builds towers and asks questions and washes his own hands and face after dinner.

My baby has 3 and a half teeth.

My big boy stands up by the toilet to pee.

The infant carrier has been permanently stuck in my truck and a convertible seat has been installed in Cort’s truck.  Eddie has upgraded his car seat to one that can convert to a booster and is good up to 100 pounds.

I just filled a tub with out-grown 6 months clothes to be stored away, possibly forever.

I filled another tub with 3T shirts and pants that don’t fit anyone in this house.

Eddie asks me big questions that I don’t know how to answer.

Charlie needs me less and less for things like falling asleep and holding his bottle.

It’s so cliche to say they “grow up so fast,” but they do. And it happens right in front of you without you knowing…until it’s too late.

Charlie’s chubby little hands with the dimples remind me that Eddie’s are thinning out and feel rough from play.  Charlie’s complete trust in us to always be there for him reminds me that Eddie is developing doubts and fears.

This juxtaposition of having an almost 8 month old and an almost 3.5 year old reminds me that they are little for such a very, very brief time.

Each age and phase is so short, so fleeting.

Charlie’s days of being a squishy little pile that just eats and sleeps are completely gone.  I know the days were fading when I went to work 9 weeks ago, but any hint of them is completely gone now.

I really do love this new shift that is happening, it’s just shocking to me how it seems to come out of nowhere, yet at the same time it’s been happening every day right in front of me.

One day this…

And then all the days that feel so much the same, but are subtly very much different happen.  And I have this…

They amaze me every single day, these creatures I am blessed to call my sons.

Even if they are growing up way to quickly.

Through Their Eyes

This particular day, I had been asked 2347983345ddfa234879 questions.

(yes, there are letters in the middle of that number.  It’s a whole new high number that was just discovered the day that many questions were asked of me).

Every single one of these questions was begun with either “Mrs. Sluiter?” or “mom?”

And all of them ranged from slightly tinted with whine, to being drenched to the point of dripping with it.

I had calmly answered all of them.

(Calm being subjective.  On the outside, I never snapped.  There may have been twitching, but no snapping.  My insides, however churned fervently.)

For those wrapped up in getting their questions answered and their “needs” met (needs also being subjective here and really would be better defined as “wants”), nothing was different.

I was just a means to an end.

A grade question.

A make up test.

A missed assignment.

Absent work.

A sounding board for complaints.

Chocolate milk.

Mickey Mouse via Tivo.

That rattle over there that can’t be reached {yet}.

Doing all the things that aren’t allowed.

They didn’t notice the weakening in the wall…the cracks running up from the base all the way to the top, slowly splitting the foundation of the calm exterior.

That which was whole and safe was moments from crumbling.

But no one noticed.

I sometimes wonder if these fault lines would be detected if I was around friends or family or my husband more than I am during the week.

If Cort wasn’t gone three nights a week he might see me weakening.

If I reached out to my mom, maybe she would recognize the tell-tale signs of a wobbly foundation.

If I was around more friends during the week would they notice the chips and cracks?

But adding “people” to my already jam-packed week is more stressful than relieving.

And so the foundation quivers.

And the cracks deepen.

At first I speak uncalmly.

Then I speak unkindly.

And then I do not act out of love, but out of frustration and anger.

My boys cry.

Out of sadness?

Out of fear?

Out of hurt?

Probably all of them.

I don’t hurt my children ever.

Not with my hands.  It never comes to that.

I would rather die.

But I know my sharp words and harsh tone and surprising volume pains them.

They bear the brunt of it because their wants and needs happen last in the day.

All day my bucket is emptied into others’ buckets and there is precious little left for what is most precious in my life.

The ones who deserve the most of my bucket get the least.

As soon as a chunk of my wall falls, I immediately work to patch it up.

Fill the hole with plaster.  Sand it down.  Paint over it.

All is fine.

Fix it.

It didn’t happen.

I’m sorry. Mommy is sorry.

And every time they forgive.

There is love and hugs and…understanding?

But after everyone is put to bed and the house is quiet and all I hear are humidifiers humming and the heaving breathing of all the boys slumbering…

when I lie there and try to quiet my brain–and heart–I wonder.

What do they see?

What does mommy look like to them in a fit of rage and weakness?

And what does mommy look like as she immediately humbles herself and makes herself vulnerable before them?

What effect will this leave on their impressionable hearts and minds?

How will this mold their view of me, of women, of family?

And I am left to pray for a fresh start, a new heart, and a stronger wall tomorrow.

on having boys

grubby little hands and feet
the smell of sticky sweat and sweet

trucks and books and dinosaurs
heavy breathing, little snores

poop and pee and tooter jokes
saying things to shock my folks

wrestling moves and pig piling
days chocked full of smiling

pockets that are full of rocks
laundry filled with balled up socks

taking toys and throwing fits
it’s a wonder our house isn’t broken to bits

loving fierce and loving hard
stitches that will leave you scarred

sharing boogers and random finds
I’m so glad to call you mine.

I love you Charlie and Eddie.
I am so proud to be a mom to boys.

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