I’m Not Gonna Be Your FRIEND Anymore.

This morning, the little redhaired boy who rides in our car every morning showed up at my house early. Or I was running late. In any case, I was madly trying to shove some peanut butter sandwiches into the lunch bags, and find Leo’s shoes, and sign Cordelia’s agenda, and locate some non-slush-soaked mittens, and feed the dog (who always responds to any increase of activity in the room by launching into a jag of panicked, high-pitched barking. Really really loud. Yanno. To be helpful) and turn out the lights, and oh! god! the laundry! and then out the door.

To keep Leo and the redhaired boy occupied, I said to them, “Whatever you boys do, DO NOT sit on that couch and plot out your plans for world domination.”

“What are you talking about?” the boys asked.

“World domination. Don’t do it. For reals.”

“What’s world domination?” the redhaired boy asked.

“It’s when you take over the world. Like Dr. Horrible.”

At which point Leo launched into a pitch perfect rendition of “My Freeze Ray” from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which is his favorite song ever.

And so the plotting began, and they were content until we got into the car.

But then the boys had a conversation in the back seat that made me cold. Leo, after experiencing a Dr. Horrible-inspired reprieve from an astonishingly cranky morning, had sunk back into the depths of his crankiness and didn’t feel like talking. The little redhaired boy (god bless that child forever) did his best to draw Leo out.

“Leo, why won’t you talk to me?” the redhaired boy said.

“I don’t want to go to school,” Leo said.

“But we’re not at school. We’re in the car.”

“Nobody’s my friend anymore at school,” Leo said.

“But I’m your friend,” the redhaired boy said.

“Yeah,” Leo said. “But,” and then he named a bunch of kids who I don’t even think he’s all that close with, “all said they wouldn’t be my friend anymore FOR NO REASON. And I was so sad yesterday, and then I got home and I wasn’t sad anymore. And now I’m going back to school and I’m sad again, so can everyone JUST STOP TALKING.” And he hunched up his shoulders so that his coat swallowed his head like a turtle shell.

“That wasn’t very nice, was it,” I said.

“No,” the little redhaired boy said. “It wasn’t.” He turned to Leo. “Leo, you are my only friend who hasn’t told me that you didn’t want to be my friend anymore.”

I stopped the car and turned around.

Really?” I said. “The only one?”

“Well,” the redhaired boy said. “I think so. I think three friends have said that. Or maybe it was more than three. Or maybe it was less than three. But it was definitely all of them.”

I love this kid.

Leo poked his head out of his jacket. “My friend said that last year. And he never turned into my friend again. Not ever.”

“It’s a mean thing to say, isn’t it?” I said. “SUPER MEAN.”

The boys nodded.

“I hate super mean stuff,” the redhaired boy said.

“Doctor Horrible would never be super mean,” Leo assured us. Only to Captain Hammer. Because Captain Hammer’s a -”

“DON’T SAY IT.”

I sighed.

“Look boys,” I said. “I think sometimes kids say mean stuff like that just because they’re in a cranky mood and they aren’t thinking about other people. When people are cranky, they’re usually just thinking about themselves. And sometimes kids say it because they feel bad inside, and they think that if they make someone else feel bad, it will make them feel better about themselves. And sometimes, kids are mean just because they like it. I don’t understand it, I don’t know why anyone would be mean for fun, but I know it’s true. There are people like that. But you two aren’t like that, and neither am I. And that’s a pretty good thing.”

The redhaired boy turned to Leo. “Leo,” he said, “I will never tell you I don’t want to be your friend. Never.”

“Me neither,” Leo said. And then they hugged and I swear to god I had projectile tears, and then Leo was all “I GET TO GET OUT FIRST!”

“NO I DO!” the redhaired boy hollered.

And then they wrestled eachother for a minute before tumbling out of the open door. They picked themselves up, I kissed each of them on the tops of their heads, and they traipsed into school.

But it got me thinking.

About politics.

For those of you who are blissfully unaware of the nasty little hotbed of dysfunction that is the Minnesota Statehouse, well, I envy you. The last year and a half has been a frickin’ nightmare. It’s like Asshole Performance Art. It’s as though each one of those jokers has been vying to win Jerk of the Year, and they ALL WON. From last year’s GOP refusal to do a single thing about the lousy budget deficit until they had sent no less than nine abortion-related (and non-budget-fixing) bills to the governor’s desk that they knew he’d veto, to the insufferable sanctimoniousness of a bunch of known adulterers whining about  defending marriage by writing bigotry into the Constitution instead of fixing their own damn families.

I could go on.

But yesterday, it was like we were all trapped in a scene from “Mean Girls”. This scene to be exact:

Yesterday, the Senate Republicans rejected a perfectly good public servant, Ellen Anderson, FOR NO REASON. They could not point to a single decision that she’s made since becoming the Chair of the Public Utilities Commission. They coud not point to a single item of public policy. They could not point to a single item in her agenda, nor in any of the decisions that she’s authored. Not one.

Instead, Julie Rosen (the good Senator from Fairmount, and a nasty piece of work if there ever was one) pulled something akin to calling your former BFF a bitch on Facebook. She said Anderson “demonized traditional energy sources”, yet could not point to this supposed demonization in her work as Chair.

Essentially, the GOP told Anderson that they weren’t gonna be her friend anymore.

They did it for no real reason. Certainly not for anything that she had done in her job.

They did it to make themselves feel better.

And, in the case of Rosen, she did it because she liked it.

I’m so embarrassed for my State right now, but I’m happy for my governor’s response, and I’m even happier about the response from those two little boys in the car today.

Because it is mean to say that you’re not gonna be someone’s friend anymore.

And it is mean to do it for no reason.

And it is better to decide to be kind, and to decide to be honorable and to decide to be good and decent and stalwart and brave. I know two little boys who have made that decision today. I hope the little children in the Legislature decide the same.

How I Accidentally Let My Son Watch The Most Anti-Feminist Movie EVER

Headline: The Homicidal Feminist Enjoys A Quiet Moment Of Thought, Plotting.

Hey, did you know that all feminists are man-hating, homicidal witches who are ceaselessly plotting to destroy motherhood?

Good ole Hollywood. Keeping us up-to-date. Whatever would we do without them?

Last weekend, my oldest had a basketball practice and my middle child had a sleepover and I promised Leo he could watch a movie. So we go through the Netflix list (by the way: Dear Netflix, GET SOME BETTER KID MOVIES! Honestly.) and he says MARS NEEDS MOMS MARS NEEDS MOMS, and I was like, “Sure kid, knock yourself out. I have to clean the kitchen and mop the floor and vacuum the rug and fold the laundry, but I’ll watch the end of it with you.”

And so it was agreed.

And thus did he and I blithely skip down the Primrose Path of Ignorance into the Slimy Ooze of…..whatever the hell that movie was. And good god. Let me tell you. It was a stinker.

And there was my son, watching a wrinkly old prune of an in-charge lady-alien (because power and authority are, apparently, murder on the skin, and feminism will ultimately make us ugly. Hollywood has spoken. WHY WOULD THEY LIE?) gazing down at an unsuspecting mother, all the while plotting to download her brain into her baby-raising robots, and then incinerate her body into ashes, leaving her broccoli-hating son bereft and alone. Observe:

SPOILER: The pretty one turns good in the end!

There they gaze from their Marsy heights, plotting. Oh, look, they say. A mother who makes her son take out the trash and bosses him around. SHE’S PERFECT.

The kid, seeing his mother taken into a scary spaceship, does what any self-respecting kid does: He hops on and prepares himself for interstellar hijinks and a little alien ass-kicking. Because, of course.

What he discovers when he gets there is that Mars has been TYRANNIZED BY LADIES for some time now, and as a result, it is a cold, heartless, joyless place. There is no color. The babies are raised by robots. And everything is harped on endlessly by the prune-faced bossylady dictator alien.

Because that’s what feminists are, right? Prune-faced bossyladies. Thanks for clarifying, Hollywood.

During the kid’s (I guess his name is Milo, and he was originally going to be voiced by Seth Green, until some studio exec realized that having a grown man play the voice of a nine year old boy is 1. Super Creepy, and 2. the final atom in a supernova that turns the whole thing into a universe-sucking black hole) various adventures adventures in soul-less Mars, evading the aliens that want to kill him -

-oh, because, in addition to hating men and wanting to destroy motherhood, feminists also enjoy killing children. Are you keeping up? Good, because Hollywood is really covering a lot of ground here. -

Milo (god, I hate using that name, because I’ve never met a Milo that I didn’t like, and it pains me that their name is now associated with this god-awful movie) escapes into an endless tunnel that’s actually the trash chute (because sci-fi ALWAYS has kick-ass trash chutes) and discovers where all the Martian men are.

In the trash heap. (Get it? SYMBOLISM! Thanks, Hollywood!)

CHECK OUT THE RASTA DADS!

And it’s all RASTA DADS TO THE RESCUE!

And along the way, Milo discovers that he really loves his mom and stuff, and she wasn’t so bad for making him eat his broccoli and take out the trash, and all the sexless, joyless Martian ladies are all AWWWWWWWW.

And then he discovers that the bossylady has been lying to the populace this whole time, telling them that Martians have always been raised by robots programmed with the downloaded brains of Earthling mothers (Really?) and that long ago Martians had real families too

(and by “real” we mean “nuclear families.” Mom plus dad. None of that new-agey business.)

(Also: GENDER BINARY, PEOPLE. Because Hollywood knows – it KNOWS!)

GENDER BINARY TO THE RESCUE!

And then the Martian ladies are all giving googly eyes to the trash-heap-living Rasta Dads that they’ve imprisoned all these years, and they shun the prune-faced dictator lady calling her “The Evil One” (I swear to god, I am not making this up) and then Milo saves his mom and this other dude who has been living secretly on Mars ever since he was ten and his mom had been taken by the Martians and incinerated right in front of him (My god people! This is a CHILDREN’S MOVIE!) decides he’s in love with one of his Martian lady tormentors, and he decides to stay, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Needless to say, when I went back upstairs after all of my stereotypically mom-ish chores, poor Leo was weeping uncontrollably, then makes a flying leap across the room into my arms and clutches my shoulder and drenches my shirt with his tears, and says, “Mom, I will never let that ugly lady burn you up, never never never never never.”

So, of course, I am the worst mother alive.

Now, most of you have probably already heard about how horrible this movie is and have steered clear, but on the off-chance that any of you, like me, have been living under a damn rock, then for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND PURE AND HOLY stay away from this awful, awful movie.

And, while you’re at it, donate some money to NOW or the Girl Scouts or whatever.

Also: GO FEMINISM

(and screw Hollywood)

P.S. Mars Needs Moms originally was a picture book by Berkeley Breathed, and it is fantastic. Totally worth a purchase. And here is his visual indicator of what he thought of the turkey of a movie they made of his completely charming and whimsical book:

My Apparent Hyperbole Addiction

My twelve year old child has had just about enough.

Given that we had about, oh, I don’t know, an inch of snow today, and given that it engendered at TOTAL SNOW APOCALYPSE (cars spinning out in the road, smashed-in fenders and bumpers and front-ends, not to mention the scores of people who were scared to go out because, thanks to the mild winter, Minnesotans have, en masse, simply forgotten how to cope with a couple snow flakes), I figured I should shovel the walk. Because I didn’t want anyone alerting the authorities. And because I didn’t want anyone to break their leg on my front walk. Because we’ve forgotten how to maneuver in sub-freezing weather.

Anyway.

I asked my child to help me.

“My back’s been hurting,” I said. “And you need to get some fresh air.”

I had already started. There wasn’t a lot to do. She wrinkled her nose. “Can’t we wait for Leo? He loves shoveling. Plus he’s free.”

“You,” I pointed out, “are similarly free.”

“Hmph,” she said. And she started looking for her gloves. Slowly.

By the time she came out, I was nearly finished. To her credit, she shoveled, she really did. Approximately four shovelfuls. And then we were done.

“That was hard,” she said.

“Thank you,” I said. “That was a big help. Even if you could only do four shovels, every little bit helps, and I appreciate it.”

Mom,” she said. “I did more than four.”

“You’re right,” I said. “Five. Those five really helped.”

Mom,” she said. “That’s not very nice.”

“You’re right, honey. And I do appreciate it. I did notice, however, that it took a suspiciously long time to find your gloves. One might think that you were dragging your feet.” She squeaked something incoherent. “I mean, I don’t think that. But one might. If one was inclined to think such things.”

Mom!”

“Like a conspiracy theorist, for example. Or a libertarian.”

“Mom,” she said, “I have had it up to here with your hyperbole addiction.”

“My what?” I said, yanking off my boots and putting them in the bin.

“Hyperbole hyperbole all day long. You can’t say anything else. It’s the only language you know.”

“Now that’s not true,” I said. “I also speak Spanish. And Klingon.”

(that last bit isn’t true at all. But it is true that my husband’s best man did our wedding toast in Klingon. Or maybe it was Vulcan. I can never remember.)

MOM!” she roared. “YOU’RE CHANGING THE SUBJECT AGAIN.”

“I have never changed the subject a single time in my entire life,” I said. “I’m like the Trans Siberian Railway – only one track.”

What?”

“The Trans Siberian Railway. I think we should go. As a family. Wouldn’t it be fun?”

She squished up her face. “Raising you is a lot of work,” she said.

“I don’t doubt it,” I said fervently. “Now will you please clean your room? I’m pretty sure I saw some Hittite artifacts under a pile of your old underwear.”

Mom,” she said, her voice a low hiss, “if you speak in hyperbole one more time to me, my face will catch on fire and my brain will turn into a supernova and the world will end in a flash of fire and energy and it will be all your fault.”

She stomped upstairs.

“Have fun excavating civilizations!” I called after her.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!”

********

(Author’s note: some of this story might have been exaggerated. Mea culpa.)

All I Want, In My Whole Entire Life Is A Whale Best Friend.


My son, from time to time, has requested a whale best friend. He’s been wanting this since he was two years old. Indeed, it was one of his first requests.

A whale best friend, he says.

Who talks.

And flies.

And does magic.

Also, when pressed, he would like this magic, flying, talking whale best friend to also go in space. “Because,” Leo assured me, “everything is better in space.”

Alrighty then.

There are things, in parenting, in life, that we simply cannot provide. I cannot give my son a best friend – whale or human, magic or not, talkative or taciturn, on earth or in space. These are things that he must find on his own.

What’s funny is that I wanted a whale best friend as well, when I was his age. Though not in space. Which makes me wonder: is the random oddity of my imagination hereditary? Or am I contagious? And if I’m contagious, is the fact that I put my odd little imaginary constructions into books and disseminate them like germs upon an unsuspecting public (and children! I send them to children! Will no one THINK of the children) constitute a health risk?

Are the writers of stories all secretly imaginary bioterrorists?

Perhaps we are. I’ve already blogged about my callous disregard for my role as Corruptor of Youth, and I meant what I said. But perhaps my role in the world is more nefarious than I earlier admitted to. Perhaps I am, even now, at work at something so insidious that it defies description.

I am writing a story.

Two of them, right now.

And copyediting another.

The two I’m writing may never be read by anyone other than myself. I may yet contain this contagion. We’ll see. I haven’t decided yet.

But VIOLET is a done deal. I will release it into the world later this year. In fact, I’ve already infected my kids, who have gone on to infect the kids in their classes with their games. Just yesterday, Leo was playing a game that involved a one-eyed dragon. “It has a foul temper,” he told his friends.

You see? It’s spreading already.

Stories, I think are organisms. They viruses – injecting themselves into the cellular framework of our imaginations, replicating themselves, making themselves new again and again and again.

My stories were told to my children before they were ever written down. My children turned them into games, and involved other children. And thus the story replicates.

I have not, at least to my knowledge, written a story about a whale best friend. Not one that flies. Not one that talks. Not one that does magic. Not yet.

Perhaps I should.

Or, perhaps I should wait until Leo is older. Perhaps it is his story. And perhaps, if he is lucky, it will infect the world.

Regarding IRON HEARTED VIOLET: where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going.

this is my book as it was and my book as it is. and this is my desk in the attic.

I am now, and will be for the next week, in the final stages of my work on my next book, IRON HEARTED VIOLET. This is my last chance to get my grubby little fingermarks all over the text and the story and the outcome. This is my last chance to do….. Aw, hell I don’t know. Something.

After I send the book back to Julie Sheina, my beloved editrix, then that’s it. My voice is silenced. My fingers are stilled. I may want to re-set the book on Mars or in the future or in a utopic commune in Zimbabwe, but my cries will be fruitless and my desires thwarted. Once the book leaves my fingers, it is no longer my book.

It will never again be my book.

It will belong to the reader.

And that, my friends, is a gorgeous thing. Scary, yes. But gorgeous all the same.

In truth, there isn’t much for me to do. The copy is pretty dang clean (though I’ll have my titanium-eyed husband give it a once-through just to make sure), and I’m astonishingly happy with the story itself. The weight of the words on my tongue is both both soothing and tasty, with a little bit of a spicy bite, and the yaw of consonants against my molars has a pleasing give to it. And after so many weeks away from these characters, my heart leaps within me to see them again.

Now, many of you already know that I’m a longhand-type writer. I love the scritchy sound of the pen on the paper. I love the fact that I’m forced to slow down, to breathe as my characters breathe, to worry over my inscrutable handwriting after a long day of writing and unwind the story like a bit of tangled thread.

Here is the book as it looks now: a stack of white, clean paper. Four-hundred-and-change pages of goofy fantasy goodness with a healthy dose of my nerdy, nerdy heart, forced into typeface and heavily bleached 8 1/2 by 11 paper.

But that’s not how it used to look.

It used to look like this.

(I’m actually totally astonished that the first line has remained the same. Well, almost the same. There’s a couple sentences that precede it, but the sentence is there. And it still feels like a first line.)

(See?)

 

Okay, fine, it’s not exactly the same, but it’s interesting – given that I have the tendency to be a slash-and-burn self-editor, the kind to employ the select-all-delete with wild abandon, to ceremonially set fire to drafts in the fire ring outside with a kind of mad, cackling glee. The shape and heft of the prose in my earliest drafts has remained constant. Maybe this means that I’m growing up. Or maybe it means that I’ve finally moved past the fact that I once lost a novel in a spontaneously-combusting, and subsequently exploding laptop.

(okay, fine, that last part was a lie. It wasn’t once. It was twice.)

In any case, the consistency in this bout of story-making interests me. Perhaps it is the reason that I feel so happy with the text now. Maybe there are benefits to learning to trust one’s instincts.

Now, as you can see here, there are actually two notebooks, which I have out in case I need to refer to my original drafting. The smaller of the two – it’s a little moleskin, which I get is all uber-precious-artiste-ish, and you all should totally make fun of me for using one, and I get it that they’re overpriced and show an over-abundance of Hemmingway-love, but I gotta tell ya, I love those friggin notebooks. First of all, they force you to write small, so a longhand page in one of those is roughly equal to a manuscript page, so they’re useful. Also, it fits in my purse, so it allowed me to keep my page counts up because I could scratch out a page or two at the park with the kids, or a the doctor’s office with the kids or at a stoplight while driving the kids, or whatever. Also, they’re super sturdy, so after a long time of hard wearing, the notebook has resisted any damage to the binding, loss of pages and whatever.

And you can make fun of me all you want, but I can still tell you to CAN IT.

The other notebook is from the very earliest iterations of VIOLET. Mostly, it was my initial experimentations with the narration and the character of the narrator. Originally, Violet was named Evangeline (what was I thinking?) and there was no character of Demetrius, her best friend.

But even at the very beginning, I was wrestling with this notion of story-making. Why do we make stories? And are stories always good? Can stories hurt us? Where is the truth in narrative – particularly now when news media and corporate and political operatives manipulate narrative for their own cynical ends?

I wrote this story because I loved the characters, but I also wrote it as a work of philosophy as well. In the end, I needed to wrestle with the notion of Story – and I needed my characters to do the same.

Did it work? I have no idea. But I’m pretty happy with it right now. While it’s mine. Before I release it into the sky.

Because I Am A Joiner (And Because I Think SOPA Sucks)

This blog will be going dark as of midnight, January 18, in protest of the proposed SOPA legislation. For more information about the bill, and why it matters to you, me, our neighbors, our kids, and the future of the untrammeled and unfettered transfer of information, ideas, creativity and opinions online, go here for more information.

This really is a big deal, you guys. Like any other piece of legislation, the devil is in the details. While I understand the need for creative professionals to make money, I think that turning the government into the Ultimate Arbiter and Unquestioned Czar of what we are or are not allowed to see online is, was, and will always be a Bad Idea. And if you have any delusions that handing that much power to an unelected body will not, one day, come round and bite us all in the collective ass…..well, I hate to break it to you, honey, but it surely will.

So. No content here tomorrow. Come back on Thursday. I will miss you in the interim.

In the meantime, I hope all of you enjoy your internet-free day tomorrow. I will be slogging my way through copy-edits of IRON HEARTED VIOLET and will be knocking a couple chapters out on WITLESS NED AND THE SPEAKING STONES and generally keeping myself out of trouble.

See you all on the flip side.

Love,

Kelly

Wherein I Utterly Fail As A Parent

If I was a teacher grading my parental performance, I would have to give myself an F.

No….an F-.

If I was the principal of parent school I would expel me.

I keep on running the events of yesterday through my head and shuddering. It was, by every reckoning, a spectacular failure.

Here’s the thing: I knew, as the mother of daughters, that the specter of body image issues and low self and imagined ugliness would one day show its ugly face in my family. And I thought I was ready. I thought I was armed. This was a battle I had fought in my youth in the rocky and precarious territory of my own crooked heart, so I felt ready to  fight for my children. I was Joan of freaking Arc and I was preparing for war. 

Armor: Check

Shield: Check

Sword: Check

Righteous rage: Check

Religiously ecstatic devotion to my cause: Check

Possibly futile war that I have absolutely no hope of winning and that will probably destroy me if I try: Check and check.

Here is what I know:

We live in a culture that teaches girls to hate their bodies.

We live in a culture that tells girls that only their body matters – not their thoughts, not their talents, not their kindness and their care, not their grace or their poise or their generosity, not their hard work, not the amazing things that they can do. We live in a culture that teaches girls that, if they are not skinny, none of those things matter.

We live in a culture that makes healthy-weighted girls think that they are not good enough.

And what kills me – what really really makes my blood boil and my skin bubble and my hair catch on fire - is the fact that the magazines these kids see and the websites they look like don’t even bother photoshopping their anorexic models anymore – they’re using digital models with real-girl (though photoshopped) faces. It’s digital mannequins and it’s harming my child. And I hate it. I am made of hate. I am built of swords and rifles and tanks and laserbeam eyes. I am a one-woman army. SO LOOK OUT.

So I sat down with her, after she had said a couple things at dinner that troubled me.

And I was already upset (what do you mean you feel bad about the ridiculously healthy dinner that I just made for you?) (what do you mean you think you’re too fat?) (you are so beautiful I can hardly see straight) (I love you I love you I love you I love you Iloveyouiloveyouiloveyouiloveyou). My head was a whirlwind of words. My heart was racing.

“Honey,” I said. I took her hands in mine. And oh! Those hands! Those beautiful hands! And oh! That beautiful child!

And I said some stuff that I really don’t remember, and probably didn’t matter much. Something about healthy weights and how our bodies are our interface with the world, and that we experience all pleasure, all joy, all love, all adventure through and with our bodies and that any second we spend feeling bad about our bodies is a total and complete waste of a second – and one that we will never get back. I told her that we only ever get one body – only one. And it is a gift. I told her that I love her. That she is beautiful. That her body is healthy and lovely and strong. But that her beauty is only a small part of who she is – that the really amazing stuff had absolutely no bearing on what she looks like – that her talents in art and mathematics and music and writing and basketball, as well as her innate curiosity and deep thinking, made her a gift to the world. And that the world was lucky.

And then. Then.

Oh you guys.

I cringe at the thought of it.

Then, after all that blather, I said this: “Here’s the thing, honey, nobody gets to tell you that you aren’t good enough, and nobody gets to tell you that your body is nothing short of perfect, and nobody gets to tell you that you aren’t beautiful and astonishing and a miracle on this earth, and if anybody ever tells you anything different then I will punch that person in the face.”

Ella stared at me.

I sat there for a moment in a sort of stunned silence.

Ohgodohgodohgodohgod!

Did I just say that?

Oh my god I did. I DID! Bloody hell.

Ella swallowed. “Um, mom?”

“Yes,” I said, feeling my sense of flamey, knife-wielding rage vanish like the dew of a summer morning. I tried to adopt what I felt might be interpreted as a breezy tone.

“Don’t you think that’s a little extreme?”

“No,” I said. I was, though calm now, unwilling to backtrack. I mean, I said it, right? I couldn’t unsay it. “I really feel that. And I would. I would punch that person in the face.”

She gave me a skeptical look. “Have ever actually punched a person in the face.”

I sighed. I have a policy of not lying to my children (except in the case of the tooth fairy, santa clause and the easter bunny. Those aren’t lies per se, but rather are ritualistic and long term storytelling. They are pageantry.) so I had to come clean. “Yes,” I said.

“IN THE FACE?”

“Yes.”

“In a fist fight?”

“Yes.”

“Has daddy ever been in a fist fight?”

“I have been in exactly two more fist fights than your father has.”

“How many times?”

“Two. But that was a long time ago.

“How long?”

“Way before you were born. In college. I was….hot tempered back then. And I didn’t always make the best choices. And I wasn’t as smart as you.”

“But, you’d get in a fist fight for me? That’s what you’re saying?”

“Oh, honey,” I said. I didn’t cry. I honestly didn’t. But I wanted to. “In a nanosecond.”

“But what if…..”

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“What is it?”

“Um, can we have this conversation later?”

Of course we could. And we will. We’ll have conversations after conversations. I gave her a kiss and told her I loved her and she started getting ready for bed.

But here’s the thing:

I know what she was going to say.

What if the person making me feel bad is me?

And it’s a good question. And a fair one. But in light of the nonsense that I had just spouted, it puts us in a bit of a conundrum. Because I told my child that I would punch the person who made her feel bad. In the face. And that person, right now, presumably, is her. Which means  that I have just threatened to punch my own child in the face.

In the face.

Oh for god’s sake.

I’m the fucking mother of the year, goddamnit. Oh, god, you guys. I’m cringing at the thought of it.

In the meantime, I’m bracing myself for more of this nonsense. And I know it’s coming. I wasted my entire adolescence and much of my young adulthood despising my body. This body! This is the body that carries me across this green earth. It digs in gardens and treks through forests and dances when it feels like it. It produced three beautiful children and it loves my husband and it is imperfect and awkward and mine. And I love it. And it wasn’t until I loved my body that I could start to love my life.

So I pray for my daughters now. And I pray for strength. Because, I’ll tell you what: This fight is gonna be hard, it’s gonna be brutal, and it’s gonna suck. And I know that anything I do will be futile and wasted.

My only hope is this: If my daughters see me fighting for them, maybe – just maybe – they’ll learn to fight for themselves.

 

Sometimes I Get A Great Notion

My oldest just got home from school. She is giving me one-word answers when I ask her about her day. She is way too cool to talk to her mother.

ME: Do you have homework today?

SHE: Obviously.

ME: Do you need to use the computer?

SHE: No.

ME: Oh, that’s good, because I need to use the big desk. What kinds of homework do you have?

SHE: The usual.

ME: Meaning?

SHE: (a long-suffering hiss. a suck of air through clenched teeth.) Mom….

ME: It’s just that I’m terribly curious. You’re gone all day. I’d like to know what’s pouring into that head of yours.

SHE: Dust and ash. And other people’s hormones. And Middle School stinks. Because the boys don’t wash.

ME: Do you want to do your homework upstairs? Then we can work together.

SHE: I’ll think about it.

ME: Though I should warn you: I’m revising. I’ll probably start randomly reading out loud.

SHE: Your point? You always read out loud.

ME: It’s just that I’m warning you. Because I’ll sound like a crazy person.

SHE: (Heaving a great sigh.) Mom. I already know you’re a crazy person. It doesn’t matter what you sound like. I’ve known that since the day I was born.

Parenting, ladies and gentlemen. It’s not for sissies. Or people with low self-esteem.