Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Brutal, Brutal Playground

I had heard about bullying.  We've all heard about it.  We know it's a major problem among kids today.  There is bullying in person and, just as troubling or maybe even more so, is cyber bullying.  I knew that it was going to be something I'd have to deal with sooner or later but who knew that I would be so mad about it already.

I'm not sure that what is happening is technically bullying.  I get it that my kids are hanging out with 5 and 6 year old kids.  They are barely capable of putting on their socks let alone masterminding a plot to psychologically hurt another child so I'm not trying to blow this out of proportion.  I know this is just part of life and kids learning how to socialize.  But it does suck when your child feels hurt due to someone else's actions.

Sometimes it's hard to know if there really was a problem.  One kid was "pushed" which turned out to just be a bunch of kids knocking into each other on the playground according to a teacher.  One kid was laughed at because of a face he made and the teacher said it was simply one kid laughing and others laughing at the laughing which then was misconstrued and blown out of proportion.  There are times when I believe you just have to learn to walk away, shake it off or ignore it.  

My boys are sensitive, though.  Some of it, I believe, is nature and some is nurture.  I think they happen to be sweet and Derek and I encourage that kind of behavior.  Neither Derek or I believe that they should "man up" or only play with guns and tanks because that's what boys do.  They like cartoons that are more about relationships than beating bad guys.  

I, personally, have been told that I needed to relax and stop worrying about other people when I was planning a party and I was so worried about making sure that no one would be friendless and everyone would know at least one other person at the party.  I do worry about things like that.  I have a bad temper and no patience at times but I also constantly wonder if others are OK.  I just googled empathetic people and found several memes that I identify with...
  1. If you see someone fall over you always wince rather than laugh.
  2. If someone wears inappropriate clothing you feel compelled to ask them if they're the right temperature.  
  3. You can tell when you're boring someone and it makes you feel awful.
  4. You expect other people to be as empathetic as you and you get angry when they can't tell that you're upset.  
So when my boys are excluded from playing a game or called a name it hurts and there's not much I can really do but be supportive and tell them I love them and will always be their friend.  There's one boy in particular who seems to be the leader of the "mean boys" (as my boys call them) and believe me I want to call his mother and tell her to teach her boy some manners.  My boys, with their big hearts, invited him to their birthday party anyway.  He's not coming and, to be honest, I'm a little bit grateful.  If he did come I'm not saying the cake might not "accidentally" wind up on his head.  


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Empathy

Last week I was so sick.  I caught some bug that was making its way through my kids' school.  After one of my boys got sick it hit me.  Aaron came up to me while I was laying on my "death bed" and showed me a picture he drew.  It had the names of colors and dots on it and he explained how it was a little game.  I could match the dots with the words.  (Honestly, the game didn't make much sense but I'm sure it was a thrilling game to a four year old.)  He also wrote

"Getwelson"

and

"Yuahhebestdadeevr"

For those of you who don't speak four year old handwriting (although I bet most of you got it) he told me "get well soon" and "you are the best daddy ever."

Of course that immediately made me feel better.  What touched me most was his empathy.  My little monstrous children who for years have only thought of themselves and their own interests (because that's what little children do) were getting the fact that I was hurting and needed help.  It's not the first time this has happened.  My kids have given me bites of their desserts when I didn't have one, sent stuffed animals to work with me so I won't be alone and given me kisses and hugs to cheer me up.  But I think this card/picture/creation hit me harder than before.

Why?

Because of what our world is facing.  Because of the Orange Demon and his vile team who have taken over the White House.

After Aaron gave me my present I really wondered what kind of childhood this man had to turn him into such an unfeeling, uncaring monster.  I have no idea how he -- along with hundreds if not thousands businessmen like Madoff and Diamond and Stumpf -- can do such hateful things to so many people.  I have no understanding of how someone can have such disregard for other people's lives.

I am grateful I live in my bubble in which my friends and family want to find ways to support the Syrian refugees, not ban them from entering the country.  I am happy my friends and family are willing to pay a little more in taxes to keep safety net programs like Medicare and Medicaid instead of cutting taxes so the rich keep an extra million that they don't need for a third or fourth or fifth house.  I love that my friends and family are humble enough to admit that they have good lives because often (not always) their parents gave them things like a good education, warm clothes in the winter, breakfast every morning and we know that those less fortunate can be in their position through systematic failings and not just personal ineptitude or laziness.

I am by no means perfect.  I am not someone who buys a homeless man a sandwich or protests inequality at marches or even is consistent with donating money.  But I'd like to think that at the very least I'm teaching my children not to hate, understand when others are hurting, and to feel grateful for the things they have.  Hopefully when my kids grow up and their generation takes over control of this country things will be different than they are now thanks to what Derek and I (and our friends and family) are teaching them.  I'll try to find some comfort in that idea for the next few years.  I believe the world can continue to become more empathetic and kind despite this temporary setback.


Friday, December 30, 2016

Party Time

I just got back from a whirlwind vacation in Southern California.  We celebrated Hannukah, Christmas and my in-laws' 50th anniversary with a Disneyland vacation and a surprise party.  It was non-stop excitement for ten of the twelve days we were there.

We flew in on a Friday and Sunday night was the surprise party.  There were about 30 people in my sister-in-law's house waiting to surprise my shocked and underdressed in-laws who thought we were heading over to decorate cookies.

When we first walked in my boys clung to me.  They were overwhelmed by the number of people at the party who were strangers.  They have always been friendly with new people but only with a daddy by their side.  After a few minutes, though, they started to explore the house with their cousins.  They went down to the play room and that was the last I saw of them for a while.

I actually got to have adult conversations at a party!  It was thrilling.

Even six months ago I don't think I could have done that.  I love that my boys are able to socialize and be on their own.  I have no idea what their older cousins were teaching them, but I didn't care for most of the night because I was having adult conversations at a party!

We had several other get-togethers while we were in California.  We had a big party on Xmas eve and on Xmas Day we had new family members come over with a 4 year old and my boys played with him very nicely too.  The "I-must-watch-my-child-every-second-of-the-day" phase seems to be fading away.  I'm feeling like there is more time for me to be me again.  I'm enjoying watching my kids grow up.  I had flashbacks to all the parties my parents hosted or went to when I was a kid and the hours of fun I spent in the basement playing with the neighborhood kids.  It's so wonderful to enter this new phase.  I've heard that the ages from about 4-10 are called The Golden Years because the kids are still cute, loving, affectionate, not having tons of tantrums and not old enough to want to distance themselves from their parents.  I can see how parenting is rewarding.

We are hosting a New Year's Day party for some friends with kids.  While I fully expect some tears and fights over toys I also am looking forward to sitting back with my mimosa and talking about adult things instead of spending a party playing with trains and eating with one hand while holding a child in the other.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Glimpse Into My Future

About a year ago I was looking at schools in our town since we get to rank our first three choices.  As I went from school to school I observed classes with kids ranging from about 4 to 12 years old.  I remember seeing kids in second or third grade working independently on projects or quietly reading a book on their own and wondering if that would ever be my kid.  It's hard to imagine my kids being so independent and (relatively) mature when they were wild three year olds.

My boys went on their first after school field trip this week.  After their six hour school day they walked about a half mile, in the rain, with about 40 other kids to a bowling alley to play 10 pin bowling.  I met them at 5pm and we stayed to eat some dinner with some other families.  During the day I worried how their little bodies would cope with the extra long and stimulating day.  When I got to the bowling alley 8 hours after school started they were bowling and having fun and smiling.  They were doing OK figuring out this crazy world we live in.

This week I also volunteered at the book fair at my kids' school.  The hour that I worked in the library was the same hour that the middle school kids (I'm guessing 7th graders?) came to the book fair.  I watched the boys and girls look at all of the books and count their money trying to figure out what they could buy.  More importantly, though, I saw how they were interacting with each other.  There was a group of gossipy girls talking about how they heard someone was busted for stealing books from the fair.  There were some boys roughhousing with each other in the corner who needed to be reprimanded by the librarian.  There was the kid who bought some sci-fi books and seemed to be mostly by himself.  All the stereotypical teens seemed to be represented.  Of course my imagination started to run wild with who my kids will be in about 10 years and how they will navigate their way through school.  Will they be the nerds?  Will they be popular?  Will they be kind?  Will they cause trouble?

Today I worked at a hospital and in the waiting room a TV talk show told a story of four high school students who witnessed a car accident, helped take care of an autistic child who was in the accident and even slipped $40 into the single mother's bag to help pay for the groceries she lost in the accident when she refused to take their money.  Knowing there are kids like that in this world give me some hope.

So will my kids be the ones who tackle new experiences or sit back in the corner?  Will they be leaders or followers?  Will they be the popular kid who is kind enough to include the outcast or will they be the outcast who gets picked on?  Who knows.  I wish I had a way to see into the future to see what will happen.  I'm not very good at waiting.  I like to know what's going to happen so I can plan for it..and then have a back-up plan...and maybe another plan or two for just in case.  But all I can do is wait and see what life gives my kids and help them through it the best way I know how.

Parenting is so freakin' hard!


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Where Have All The Babies Gone?

When I was going through the surrogacy process I felt alone at first.  My agency connected me with a single father with newborn twins (I hope he survived) who I talked to once but the poor man was overwhelmed and didn't really have time to help me with my journey.  My music teacher got me connected with a friend of his who had gone through surrogacy as well and I talked with him once or twice which was very helpful.  Overall, though, I felt I was one of very few people in the world who was having my experience.

I started my surrogacy blog so my child (before I knew it would be children) would know what I did to have him or her.  A few weeks after I started blogging I found a blog of someone else going through surrogacy.  That led me to another and another and another.  Pretty soon I was connected with 20 or 30 different blogs written by intended parents and surrogates themselves.  It was amazing to see all of their different stories. I felt like I had an online family.

We all supported each other as we went through our own, unique journeys.  Many were thrilling.  Some were heartbreaking.  Most were a mix of ups and downs.

It is now four to five years after many of us became parents/gave birth or tried to at least.  Not everyone's dreams were coming true when last I heard from them.  There are still so many stories that stick in my head.


  • There is the woman who gave birth to a gay couple who lived in Poland. She flew to Poland once to visit the baby after the child was born.  Her story was beautiful.
  • There was the altruistic surrogate who gave birth to a baby of someone she didn't know without any financial compensation and I fell in love with her heart and soul.
  • There was the funny gay couple in DC whose blog always made me laugh.
  • There was the couple who had twin boys who were a little older than my boys.  They were living in India -- or maybe it was Nepal? -- for several years and if I remember correctly I believe they had moved to The Netherlands.  It was fascinating to read about life as a gay couple with kids in other countries.
  • There was a straight couple who tried several times to get pregnant through IVF and never seemed to succeed.  I believe her PCOS was a big hurdle.  They kept struggling to figure out where to use their funds -- try more IVF or adopt.  Every time their pregnancy test came back negative my heart sank.  
  • There was a lesbian couple who seemed so in love with each other and they wanted a child so badly.  Their pregnancy tests came back negative every time too no matter how hard I wished for a positive one.
  • There were two couples who had triplets.  There was also a woman in Australia who had two kids and then got pregnant with triplets.  Can anyone imagine having triplets?
  • There was the snarky lesbian who used her own eggs to give birth to a baby for her gay friends.
  • There was the couple who used a surrogate in India.  The surrogate gave birth to boy/girl twins.  The mom was literally stranded in India for months because her son was too sick to be transported back to the U.S.  When she finally did get out she was dealing with a very sick boy who eventually passed away a little before his first birthday.
The last story was the most compelling.  The mother wrote a blog with such compassion, humor, love and strength.  

Now, years later, I wonder where all these children are.  I really wish I had updates on all of these stories.  There are a few parents and one or two surrogates who are my Facebook friends now.  I have a few bits of information about these children and surrogates, but nowhere near the details I had as we all went through our journeys.

Many of those IPs and surrogates followed my surrogacy blog but not as many follow this one.  I'll post something on that blog and if you followed my blog or I followed yours please put a message in the comments about how you're doing or post an update on your blog!  

Friday, October 21, 2016

I Can't Always Be There

Some days a parent's heart hurts because he or she can't solve everything.  I'm starting to have more and more of those days.

My boys are off on their own more now.  School is six hours a day which means they have to navigate a classroom with I believe 19 other kids lunch in a cafeteria, recess, art class, music class, free play and more.  We recently went to two birthday parties and their worlds are becoming more complex. 

When I hear that a child wouldn't play hide and seek with Jeff or someone bumped Aaron on the playground and my child wonders why that happened it hurts me.  I want to rush to their aid.  I tell Jeff that he can find another friend and I let Aaron know that some kids don't know better, but their world getting rocked a little is something I can't totally fix.  They need to find their own friends.  They need to stand up for themselves a little.  They need to join the right crowd.  As parents we may guide our children towards certain goals or away from other goals, but the truth is that they are the ones leading. 

I have tried to raise empathic, caring, sweet boys and some days I wonder if a little more assertiveness wouldn't hurt so much.  There are times in this world where you do have to claw your way to the top, but there are times when I believe compassion for others is really the ultimate skill.  In this day and age our children are supposed to be independent, but watched 24/7.  They must be academically pushed but also left alone to be a kid and play.  Children must be learning about technology because that's our future but not have too much screen time.  When a child shows an interest in something we are supposed to encourage that but then, if a child wants to quit, we shouldn't encourage quitting but at the same time we shouldn't force them to do something they hate.  Parenting is a constant balancing act where too little of something can be just as bad as too much of something.

So as my boys struggle to figure out how to make friends I know there is a delicate balance between me wanting to be their friend and me allowing them to fail on their own.  Parenthood is hard.  I see what people mean when they say the problems become more complex.  It's no longer about how many cookies the boys can have (although I believe there will always be struggles with cookies) but about hurt feelings, social relationships, gender roles, and more. 

Wish me luck.  As my former teacher once said, "Life is like a roller coaster and you just have to ride it until the end.  There's no getting off until the ride comes to a complete stop." 


Monday, September 5, 2016

Fear

Apparently there is a lot of fear and trepidation in our home these days.  But if you look hard enough you can find a silver lining. 

At dinner tonight Aaron brought up the fact that he still wants to be a fireman when he grows up.  Jeff responded by telling us he was going to be one of four things: a fireman, a construction worker, a something-I-can't-remember, or an audiologist.  Aaron then hoped that Jeff would be an fireman so they could be together.  When Jeff said he was really considering becoming an audiologist Aaron then decided he would be an audiologist too.  He then turned to me and asked if I would be an audiologist so the four of us could be together.  He seemed truly scared to be away from Jeff when he grows up.  He said that he wanted to work with Jeff.  We did our best to assure Aaron that even if he and Jeff work in different places, they will always be brother who love each other and his daddies will always love him too.  While the actual fear and sadness was heartbreaking it was sweet to know how much he loves his family.

Jeff had some behavior problems today and this afternoon I sat him down and asked if he was feeling sad or mad or scared or angry.  He said no to all of them.  Then, after reflecting on his answers for a minute, he told me that he was scared about starting junior kindergarten in a couple days.  His beautiful little eyes got wet and scared.  I hugged him and told him that his brother would be with him as well as two friends we had met on the playground.  I promised him that he will get to play new games, read new books, sing new songs, etc.  I reminded him that we will get to visit the school as a family on Wednesday and see what his classroom will look like.  I'm sure he is still scared about this new adventure, but it impressed me that he was able to actually verbalize his fear.

I'm scared too.  As a parent of course I'm worried about my kids.  They will in the youngest grade in the school and most likely they'll be the youngest kids in the class.  It's their first time being in school all day.  I'm nervous that they won't eat their lunch or that no one will help them open their yogurt.  I'm worried that they won't make friends or that someone will pick on them.  I hope they have a good teacher.  I hope they learn a lot.  I hope they have fun.  I'm also wondering what life will look like for me when they are in school all day and how I can balance work and parenthood again.

I am looking forward to the summer ending and having time to do things for myself again.  I believe I am a better parent when I have some of my pre-kid life back.  I'll be performing in a show this fall and I'm sure I'll be able to figure out my work/life balance.  But school starting is a realization that my boys are growing up, becoming independent and needing me less.  I know I have been craving that most days, but it is bittersweet...well, let's say 10% bitter and 90% sweet.  ;-) 

Years from now, when my boys read this, they'll roll their eyes at this last part...

Every night, for as long as I can remember, I sneak into their room before I go to bed.  I kiss each one on the head and most nights I tell myself that I will try to be a better parent the next day.  I think about how they will always be my little men and how I hope they are happy.  I know that in a few years they won't want kisses from me and they won't dance an impromptu hula dance in the kitchen with me to The Pina Colada Song like we did today.  I want to protect their happy lives for as long as possible, but I know that we all must grow up and face the big, scary world at some point.  Still, when my mom or dad tells me everything will be alright or sits down with me to eat a homemade chocolate chip cookie they still have the power to lessen my fears even just a little bit.