"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, August 7, 2020

The truth about parenthood

First of all, I'm hoping that my son never reads my blog. I don't want to burden him with this. 

A friend of mine posted a photo of his delightful young daughter with the comment that she's growing up. I still see her as a little girl, but I'm certain he recognizes a look in her eye, an expression that says, "I just found a corner and turned it."

He reminded me of some random writing--scribbling, really--that I'd done a few weeks before. I was sitting on the patio, having wine and listening to one of my son's YouTube live concerts. Here's what I wrote:

"I notice that wine makes me reflective and melancholy and given to fits of poignancy and sadness, but champagne makes me drunk on happy and giddy.

I love my son so much and he fills me with fear. I fear 'losing' him--that he's found his life as an adult and he's living it and there's only a tiny corner of it for me. And I knew that was the deal. I knew he was a treasure I wasn't supposed to keep, but it's so hard so hard to be a mom and have your world centered on them and theirs on you, and then the balance shifts and they are THEIR OWN. I'm happy and proud and sad and afraid. I'm all the feels."

This is what it's like to be a parent. Forget diapers and scraped knees and schoolwork and lessons. This is what it's like to get to the end of your gigantic usefulness to them, and become more of an advice columnist with an opinion they can listen to or discard. You think it's going to be relaxing and fun. It is, but...it isn't.

This is what it's like to follow this parental path, follow it all the way down to sea, to where they've swum beyond your safety buoy and are out there looking reckless but planting safety buoys of their own, after they've discovered what's dangerous. That ocean is huge, and you always fight the fear that you'll never be able to find them again, and that they're too busy swimming to look for you. 

And that's the way it's supposed to be.

I also hope my friend with the daughter doesn't read this. I don't think I want him to know just yet.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

A big post from the little lady

I've had this post rattling around in my brain for at least a month, if not more, and I'm trying to make the words come out like Goldilocks' opinion of Baby Bear's stuff: juuuusssstttt right. We shall see, says my inner cynic.


This is a story of two of my friends, my separate interactions with them, and what it all means.

I have one friend who is as big-hearted as the African sky, but completely clueless when it comes to people who are not white and middle-class like her. Her family was that sadly rather stereotypical white family that naturally believed all the stereotypical crap about Black/Hispanic/Muslim/Jewish/Other families because they didn't have any contact with the Other to make them question their beliefs. Like I said, she is clueless, but she has a genuine fondness for all people, even when she puts her foot in her mouth.

When we are together, I get to educate her about the perils of being Black in America, even though I am white. I explain why Black Lives Matter. I explain having to teach my son how to survive a traffic stop. I explain why it frightens me to imagine calling 911 if we ever had an intruder because I don't want the police to assume the black guy is the burglar and shoot my husband. I describe being pulled over outside of Amarillo for doing 74 in a 70-mph zone and being Naive White Girl, arguing with the cop while Dale continually poked me in the ribs, whispering, "Shut up and take the ticket."

When she describes a situation that at least started badly for her, I ask her, "Do you want to know why that person thought it was offensive?" Her answer is always, "Yes."

Her heart and mind are open to change, even if it comes slowly, and I love that about her.

My other friend was not raised in that kind of bubble. She lived in a very diverse community and her parents always had visitors of other races, colors, and creeds. I will say, as an aside, that her family was more upper middle-class, but I don't hold that against her.

She told me a story of a woman in her volunteer organization who is the only black woman in a very white group. The woman expressed frustration that she was never listened to, she was talked over, that her ideas were dismissed, and ended with the statement that she couldn't help but feel this group was racist.

My friend described to me HER outrage at being called racist, and that she informed the woman she could not be more wrong. She listed all the ways she had not been raised to "see color" and would not stand for being called such an ugly term.

*Insert heavy sigh here* 

Basically, my friend invalidated this poor woman's feelings and made her feel even worse about the situation. It would not surprise me if that woman left the organization.

Which leads me to... *Insert big breath* declaring that I am a racist.

Do I feel like a racist? No. I see the differences in people and I love them, I applaud them, I want to learn about different cultures. I treat everyone as the individual I believe they are and not part of some collective "them." I'm still naive--I look for the good in everyone I meet. Of course, I also try to take Maya Angelou's advice, and believe who people are the first time they show me.

(Oh, and BTW, I don't care how you define your sexuality or who you love/marry/have sex with, as long as it's consensual. It's SOOOOO none of my business. Just give me your pronouns and I'll do my best.)

But I was not raised this way, and I must commit myself to accepting the label. Why? Because someday I will open my mouth and say something stupid. I'm guessing it will be out of ignorance (I can't imagine being malicious). Some phrase or term I got from my childhood and carried forward without knowing its meaning. Something that will make someone accuse me of racism.

And I don't want to immediately fight back and end the dialogue. I want to be able to apologize and ask how I can make amends. I want to do better.

Thanks for reading.

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