Monthly Archives: June 2014

Is Pretty the Problem?

Is pretty a bad thing? I don’t know. Is handsome a bad thing? Is the color pink bad? Is the color blue?

Pretty like a squash blossom. Did you know that squash blossoms can be male or female? But they’re both showy and big and orange and they poke out of beautiful green leaves on top of a mound of dirt.

Pretty like a betta fish, a duck, a guppy. Did you know that in those species the “pretty” ones are the males and the females are drab and boring?

Pretty like my daughter with her hair up in tangles, strawberry juice running down her face, covered in mud and rambling through the garden commenting in glee about all the bugs that she sees.

Pretty like my oldest son, bent over a book, his long dark lashes swooping away from his deep-sea-blue eyes that are surrounded by a smattering of freckles.

Pretty like your wife laying on the clean white sheets, exhausted and asleep with your newborn son curled up safe in her arms.

Pretty like your husband when he watches your children with fascinated wonder.

Pretty like the elderly woman and her delicately wrinkled hands with surprising speed, knitting something in the sunshine at the assisted living home.

Maybe the problem isn’t with pretty, maybe the problem is with the definition. The idea that pretty is a marketing term used to describe a particular category of humankind. The female sort that is of a certain height, weight and age.

We forget that we describe many things as pretty. Things with no gender. Pretty rainbows and pretty sunshine and beautiful days. Pretty landscapes and beautiful things. Things that make us smile.

The issue isn’t with being told that we are pretty. The issue is that it’s the only thing that we’re expected to be. It’s sometimes the only thing that we are valued for.

I was a pretty child. My favorite color was blue and I was often covered in scrapes and scratches from bike rides and bug hunts and berry picking.

I don’t regret being pretty.

I regret that I was not encouraged to be fascinated with math.

I regret that my father would not teach me how to ride a motorcycle the way he taught my brother.

I regret that my father would not teach me how to fix a bike, throw a ball, repair a car, use a chainsaw.

I regret seeing an older man say “It’s too bad she’s deaf. At least she’s pretty, she’ll have no trouble finding a man.”

I regret every time I have offered to do something that is traditionally a “male” job and have been turned down only to have a man’s offer accepted.

I regret every time I mentioned a fascination with something technical and was told I couldn’t.

And all of the doors that closed in my face.

Pretty? That just means that someone is happy when they look at me. Maybe a perfect stranger might find me pretty in a particular moment. Or maybe my partner will find me pretty. I find him pretty, too.

Pretty isn’t the problem.

The problem is that boys are told that they can’t be pretty and that their favorite color shouldn’t be pink.

And girls are told that they can’t open doors and that they can’t play in the mud.

Pretty isn’t the problem. Pink isn’t the problem. Gender isn’t the problem. It’s the idea that any of these things stand out on their own and encapsulate a complex human being that has their own ideas about who they are.

Yes. My daughter is pretty. She is pretty while she builds with Legos. She is pretty while she examines how her bike is put together. She is pretty while her grandmother paints her toenails the same shade of red that her three year old brother picked for his. She is pretty when I show her how to use garden tools that I know how to use and she is pretty when her dad shows her how to use the tools that he knows how to use.

She sees me open doors for men and she sees me offer to carry packages. She sees me fix computers and she sees her father make dinner. She sees her grandfather cook and load the dishwasher. She sees me sweep the floor. She sees that men and women change diapers and bathe babies and fix things.

She hears me call her pretty. She hears me call her brothers pretty. She hears me talk about the pretty weeds and the pretty butterflies and the pretty bees and I’m pretty sure she understands that “pretty” is just one of many things to be.

Sleep Crutch

Restless. She cries and sits up, reaching over for me. Alex rolls her over his body into my arms. She melts onto my chest, her head in the dip of my collarbone, her little face turned towards mine. The heat of her arms around my shoulders, the heat of her face against my skin, and /that/ smell on her breath. Fever. I need no thermometer to know it is high enough but not too high. She coughs, squirms, tries to be comfortable. Rolls onto the bed beside me, then climbs back to the place where she spent so many hours as a young baby. One leg falling to either side of me, her head against my right shoulder, her heart fluttering away opposite my own.

Sleep crutch. A child that sleeps through the night every night, now. That falls asleep in her own space after nursing and snuggles have filled her with peace that she carries with her to her sidecarred crib and to a pillow of her own.

But here she is, needing those old familiar ‘sleep crutches’ from her smallest days.

The feeling that sleep trainers hope to impart with the term “crutch” is that a baby relies on a crutch in order to do something that they are perfectly able to do on their own. Like alcoholism being a social crutch.

It is a crutch, I guess. Like crutches for a person that cannot walk. Inconvenient things that a person uses out of necessity until they no longer need them.

She grew out of her need for closeness at night. She grew out of her need to nurse at night. Like a person with a sprained ankle, the crutches stopped helping her once she no longer needed them. And she left them behind because they slowed her down.

She has picked them up again tonight. These old familiar things. These things left behind as her ability to self regulate at night kicked in and made them inconvenient for her rather than comforting. Now? The need for them is here again and instead of sleeping fitfully and crying she has found peace in my arms for the night.

Fever hot and fitful. Peace does not come easy, I know this. But peace is what she has found.

We don’t scoff at crutches used when they are used for a need. Yes. All the holding and all the nursing and the bouncing.. They were crutches that were outgrown.

What am I supposed to do when I hear that phrase? Look upon them with scorn and toss my child’s crutches away while there is a need?

It is easy to see, now. Now that she sleeps at night on her own and independently. When she was tiny, though? Oh did the phrase “sleep crutch” sow all kinds of seeds of doubt.

If You Really Loved Me, Would I Feel It?

If you really loved me, would I feel it? There’s a theory of “love languages” where we give and receive love in different ways. What if you speak my love language as a second language? What is the learning curve on a second language? And then, if you’ve learned it, will you speak it with beautiful fluency during times of stress? Or will you do as all humans do, and batten down the hatches while leaving me to feel irrelevant?

The truth is.. The reason that I don’t always feel your love for me in the marrow of my bones… Is because it is a thing that you are supposed to feel, not a feeling of my own. I feel my love for you in my marrow. Most of the time. Yeah. There are some times that “I love Alex” doesn’t cross my mind. Just like there are some times that I don’t think about my breathing or the beating of my heart or how my muscles move my bone. There are times that my love for you doesn’t cross my mind because it’s faded out of that newness and euphoria and has become an automatic part of living. A thing that sometimes catches me off-guard and renders me breathless.

I need to accept that the same holds true for you. You don’t spend your days thinking about how much you love me and how to show me your love. You don’t spend your days thinking “How can I prove to Sarah that I love her today?” Just like I don’t think about how I have to show you that I love you. Dude. I wash your underwear. With all my love for laundry, if I didn’t love you I’d probably set it on fire or make you wash it yourself.

I don’t have to tell you that, though.

Because you once said that all I have to do is be here.

You love me in whatever shape I am. Whatever I give you. It is unconditional.

So what exactly is this “love language” crap? Honestly, the reasons that I need you to speak my love language have nothing to do with how you feel. They all have something to do with my own insecurities.

I wonder sometimes how much of pop culture you’ve absorbed. If you need to measure your manhood in conquests. If you’ll put your love for me on a shelf and run off with a dozen supermodels the way this culture says you should. If I’ve trapped you into this relationship with our children.

Do you ever wonder if I’ll leave you for a younger man without the softness that comes with age? No. Do you wonder if you’ve trapped me into misery with the three children that you have given me? No.

I think I’m being a bit of a sexist pig, here. I expect you to show me that you love me in a half a dozen different ways every single day that we live and breathe together, in a love language that really makes no intuitive sense to you, in times of stress where you are forgetting half of the things that make life move ahead.

Why?

Because I don’t love myself. And when love was fresh and new you were interested enough in me that I started to discover my own value through your eyes. Now that we’ve been together I don’t see the discovery anymore. I just am. On my own steam. And I’m back to that place of trying to figure out how to love myself. And if I can’t take my own love of myself for granted, how should I take your love for me for granted?

I think I need to put myself in your shoes a bit more. If you asked me “Do you love me?” I’d think you were nuts. Of course I do. And I’d probably try and list the things that I do to show you that. But what if they weren’t the right things? What if you needed love in a more flowery way and a less practical one? What if you needed more of the practical stuff and I was more flowery?

You don’t do that, though.

You say I just need to be here.

Because you love me unconditionally.

I don’t have to lose ten pounds or gain ten pounds or paint my face or wear high heels. I don’t have to be the perfect housemaker or pleasure you a set number of times per week. You’re not asking me to speak your love language when I’m stressed out and in the middle of trying to get too many things done. I’d like to think that it’s because I excel at showing you that I love you. In truth? I probably don’t.

I need to work more on loving myself. That’s the core of it. I need to love myself before I could ever trust that you could love me.

You probably love me more than I love myself. And that… right there… is suspicious stuff. Even if you spoke my “love language” every single day.. I wouldn’t hear it. Because my own insecurities are too damned loud.

I love you. (But you knew that already.) I just need to work on loving me.

What Makes a “Good Father”?

What makes a “good father”? There is an element of chance and of risk when two hearts come together and make a third. You cannot know a man as a father until he holds his first child for the first time. A child is like a mirror, like infinity. It is honest and unfiltered and it contains all the raw elements of ourselves that we were forced to grow out of, by time or by people along the course of our lives. It is a part of us that has been thrust back into our beginning without any of the journey that has made us who we are. It is a part of our brothers, our fathers, our mothers and our cousins.

It’s this whole other being and when we become a parent we also learn that we are not “in control” the way that society would have us believe.

It’s a bit like being told that we can teach wildfire to jump through a hula hoop, or that we can lasso the ocean.

There’s no bullet list of things that makes a daddy good. No entrance fee and no learner’s permit. No final exam or list.

That’s because fatherhood, just like motherhood, is a relationship and it is a journey.

I guess that is what makes my partner a “Good Dad”. It makes him a good human being and a good man, as well.

From the first moment, he approaches his children with curiosity. He seeks out the pattern of their personality as they grow inside my belly. He holds his hand over where their feet kick, takes note of any patterns of activity that happen. He talks about them as the human beings that they are, with the needs and wants and dreams and desires and humanness that a person has.

He doesn’t seek to form them into a thing that he has imagined. He lets them color his imagination in whatever vibrant colors they come up with. Even if they clash.

When Mr. Middle was born I offered him over to Alex to hold at some point. Alex gestured to his son’s little face and the lips that had begun to make the rooting o’s. He said “He needs to nurse right now. He needs you. We’ll bond later.”

There’s a profound lack of ego in how he parents.

It’s not about him.

His children are not pets, not property. Not embarrassments or toys. He is not afraid of their emotions or anxious over shortcomings or the things that they struggle to learn. He is proud of their achievements, of their individuality. He sees the details of who they are, and he celebrates them.

When they need me, he makes sure that they can come and find me. When they need him he makes sure that he is there.

He doesn’t try to buy love for himself. He gives.

I can’t capture the things that make a “good father” in a list because a good dad is human. A living breathing person that has a relationship with each living and breathing person that he is working to raise.

You’re Making Me Uncomfortable Even When You’re Not There (NIP)

Dear Person(s) Unknown,

You make me far more uncomfortable than I make you. Think about it. I have no way of knowing if you’re lurking there in the corner thinking terrible things. I have no idea if you’re sitting there thinking sexual thoughts. I have no idea if you are thinking about calling the manager and trying to have me removed. I have no idea if you ARE the manager and if you plan on having me removed.

When I nurse in public sometimes I’m nursing in a train station with hundreds of people. Sometimes I am nursing in a restaurant with dozens. Sometimes I am nursing on a street or in a park.

And I have no way of knowing if you are there.

Lurking.

I have no way of knowing if you’re a public television persona that will use your platform to shame me. I have no idea if you’re a writer at some major magazine or newspaper that will do the same.

You may encounter me or someone like me once in a blue moon. If you saw nursing mothers on any sort of a regular basis I’m certain your head would explode.

I have to worry about YOU every. single. day.

I have to worry if you’re about to ruin my meal.

I have to worry if you’re about to have me removed from the bus. Or the plane. Or the train.

I have to worry if you’re about to call the police.

I have to worry if you’re going to say the most vulgar and nasty things about my nursing child.

I worry about you even when you’re probably not in the room.

I may make you uncomfortable for a moment or two here and there. I might “ruin a meal”.

Over the course of three children and many year of breastfeeding you have made for a ridiculous number of uncomfortable moments and many ruined meals.

The truth. The real truth of it is.. You’re in the minority. Most people don’t care. You are not in most of the places that I go. You are not in most of the places where my baby eats.

But since I can’t see you, and you don’t wear a T-Shirt or a hat or some form of easy to ID badge that says “I DON’T LIKE SEEING BABIES EAT” I have no way to know if you’re there until you suddenly pop out that opinion of yours and rub it in my face.

You have some idea that I am in the room before I begin to nurse. There’s a baby there. Maybe the diaper bag is suspiciously small. You have the option of leaving quietly without fuss or drama to go elsewhere with your thoughts. I have no idea that you’re in the room until you choose to react. Until you choose to take a picture of a nursing mother to share on Twitter. Until you choose to bad-mouth me or mothers like me on your television show. You’re an invisible plague.

I, at least, have some kind of a good reason for the discomfort that I may momentarily cause. A child that needs to nurse. A child that needs comfort, or food. You’ve got an OPINION. A thing that you don’t want to see. A sense of entitlement and privilege that says your ideas about how things should be done is the most important thing in the room.

I could launch into a miles long list of all the reasons why I should be allowed to nurse in public. The laws involved. The health reasons. But the truth is? If you haven’t heard it already you’ve had your head under that blanket of yours a bit too long. You already know the reasons. You just don’t care about anyone but yourself.

And you’re making me uncomfortable. And I find it disgusting.

Please keep that opinion of yours in your head under a blanket where it belongs. You’re making a lot of people uncomfortable. Even when you’re not in the room.

-A Nursing Mother

Teeter Totter. Where Breastfeeders and Formula Feeders are Getting it Wrong

Teeter. Totter.

Let’s remember that when we ride a teeter totter that there’s another person on the other side and that when we go up we will be brought back down as the other person kicks off of the ground.

A breastfeeding mother in a public place should not look around her wondering if someone is going to take her picture and shame her behind her back.

A formula feeding mother in a public place should not look around her and wonder if someone is whispering and wondering what is in the bottle, if she’s her child’s mother, if she’s a good mother.

When we are surrounded by the militant from either side.. A breastfeeding mother being dragged down by those that judge her, that suggest supplementation every ten minutes, that tell her she is starving her child.. A formula feeding mother whose friends are breastfeeding fanatics that post-mortem every moment of her child’s life to try and find out where she “went wrong” because /every/ mother can make it work. You know. If she /tries/.

It’s tempting to explode in an angry barrage. To kick off fiercely against the ground so that we can gain some time back up in the sky with the bully down there on the ground.

We’re caught in that cycle, it would seem.

Teeter. Totter. Each time slamming harder, kicking harder.

But stop. Breathe. Take a look at that other mother. That stranger or that friend. Forget your own experiences. Forget the things that others have said. Look at the love.

Look at the love. Look at that soul-deep heart lifting bond. Look at that mother nursing her baby. With the breast. With the bottle. Look at the heart.

Whisper “Oh shit, I’m sorry” instead of all the things that would cloud your vision.Instead of saying those reactionary things that were in your head. Not sorry for her experience. Sorry for what you were thinking. I’ve thought those things. And oh SHIT am I sorry. So sorry that only that phrase will do. Swear and all.

Stop pushing off, knowing that it will push her under.

If she rages, wonder if someone else has pushed her under and if she’s just trying to get back up.

Slow down.

Try and balance each other, instead.

You don’t have to push off. You don’t have to push under. You don’t have to go under. That’s where we’ve all been getting it wrong.

We don’t have to be playground bullies and the playground bullied caught in trying to get our time in the air. We don’t have to play at games where we see how hard we can make that /other/ kid slam into the sand on the other side.

We can try.. Try… To find balance where everyone is lifted up in the joy and love of their journey. Where everyone can heal from the mean words of others, where everyone can heal from opportunities missed and deeply grieved.

Public Breastfeeding, and the Things I am Sorry For

I am sorry.

I am sorry that breastfeeding is a scary and offensive thing that you did not get to grow up with, that you didn’t get to see your mother, your aunts and your cousins do. That you didn’t get to see your siblings do. That you didn’t see a newborn grow into an infant at his mother’s breast, and into a toddler and into a small child that slowly weaned away.

I am sorry that you learned about the sexuality of breasts before you learned about the nurturing. That your first exposure to breasts as a child was one that came with shame rather than growing up with them as a source of comfort and nourishment.

I am sorry that you think that breastfeeding is private.

But it isn’t.

It is nothing sacred, as it happens every hour for an hour, sometimes. Ain’t nobody got enough time in their day for that amount of sacred. Not even monks spend that much of their day to day life on sacred things.

It is nothing unusual, as it is what every infant is born expecting. While things happen in this culture that make it rare, and while there are conditions that make breastfeeding impossible (as there have been throughout all of history) it is not a thing that is meant to be rare. It is a thing that once was a part of the beginning of every man and woman born. It should not be as unusual at it is.

It is nothing private. It poses no risk to anyone. It is self contained and clean and quiet. I am sorry that you have not grown up with the knowledge of how clean, how simple breastfeeding is. It is not like the other things that come to mind. It is not like urine or feces, it is not like vomit or semen. It is one of nature’s cleanest things.

I am sorry that you feel that a child should wean when they start to speak, and that you likely have no clue about why a mother would nurse beyond that point. That the idea so shocks you that you can’t deal with finding out. That you don’t know about the antibodies, the nutrients. That you don’t know it is what a child’s body expects and what they need.

I am sorry that we are on such different pages. That you find breastfeeding to be so scary and shocking, and that I find it to be what it is. Something humdrum and ordinary that weaves its way through the pattern of those early days.

I am sorry that I cannot come to meet you where you are. I cannot un-learn the things that I know about breastfeeding and I cannot come to a place of shock and outrage about something that is so simple, so clean, and so needed.

I am sorry, though.

I am not sorry for breastfeeding. I am not sorry for each toddler that I have nursed. I am not sorry that I breastfeed in public.

I am sorry for each and every woman that wishes deeply to do those things, but that fears…

Because your thoughts about breastfeeding are a violence against them. A violence against these women and their babies.

I wish you were sorry, too.

“Just” for Comfort

Dear Daughter,

Sometimes you nurse “just” for comfort. Just. Because at two you “shouldn’t” need this anymore. Because the nutrition that you get from food, from meals cooked at the stove and from snacks picked from our garden, from the farmer’s market organic grass-fed milk.. Somehow renders this other milk, this mother’s milk, the milk made just for you.. Unnecessary. Placed below the devalued “just” comfort. Not even meeting the bar to be included in “just”. So inessential. Not even needed like water, a substance it is sometimes compared to once society has run out of the desire to feel that what you say you need is really a need and not “just” a desire.

Just comfort contains a lot of things in this case. Amazing fats, lipids, antibodies, vitamins that absorb better than vitamins from pretty much any other source. Stem cells, probiotics. And yes. Comfort.

We don’t value comfort in this society. We value “luxury”. Luxury cars. Luxury cruises. Luxury vacations of excess. We don’t value comfort in this society. We value deluxe. We value sexy. We value exotic. We value the uncomfortable headiness of early love over the comfort of waking up in the morning next to a human that we know inside out. We value new and shiny, or sometimes the very rare antique.

What is it with our desire to play down comfort? To uncomfortably accept “comfort foods” as the junk that we eat when we’re mourning the loss of our latest and greatest love. To accept “comfort spending” and other vices. But to reject the things that actually provide comfort in a wholesome and healthy way?

“Just” comfort. Just a pair of arms to hold onto you in a sea of emotional chaos.
“Just” comfort. A hand to hold while waiting to hear news that may turn your life upside down.
“Just” comfort. A shoulder where you can bury your face and sob, not worried about snot or tears.
“Just” comfort. A pair of hands that hold your hair away as you heave over a bucket when you’re sick.

Just. Just comfort.

Because if we were truly big enough and strong enough, we could rock this toddler thing like James Bond. All cool in a slick sports car

Because if we were truly independent we could do something mature like shove our feelings down into our size six toddler shoes like a pair of rumpled up socks, and we could deal with all this stuff all on our own.

I don’t know. Seems kinda silly.

Yes. I’ll nurse you “just” for comfort. I’ll smile. Yeah. Maybe it is “just” comfort right now. I’m fine with that. I’m fine with teaching you that comfort is a thing you find in the arms of someone safe that you love.

Maybe if you learn this now, when you are little, you won’t spend your whole life looking.

<3 Mama

Sex and Love

Dear Kids,

When you get older and all your friends are driving, maybe one of them will have a car and will say “let me show you how to drive!” I’ll expect you to say no. Why? Not because I never want you to get behind the wheel of a car. But because there’s a time and a place and a way to learn safely and a time and place and way to make really bad and dangerous mistakes that can put you and others at risk in ways that I want you to be aware of.

Part of that will be getting your learners permit. And part of that will be taking a defensive driving course. Part of that will be a series of conversations that you and I will have where we talk about the risks and consequences of certain behavior and of certain mindsets.

Sex is like that.

When you get older your friends may be experimenting with sex. Maybe you’ll be under pressure. I’ll expect you to say no. Why? For the same reason. It’s not that I want you to NEVER HAVE SEX or even that I want you to wait until you’re married. Sex is a choice that ultimately belongs to you. I’m not squeamish about that.

BUT. Big but. There is a time and a place and a way to learn safely and a time and place and way to make really bad and dangerous mistakes that can put you and others at risk in ways that I want you to be aware of.

I want you to understand rape culture. I want you to understand consent. I want you to understand inebriation. I want you to understand all of the different reasons why a person might engage in sexual behavior, and I want you to understand the difference between good and bad reasons. I want you to be aware of the fact that sometimes people agree to have sex not out of desire but out of fear. And I want you to make sure that you never accidentally take advantage of someone who isn’t into it wholeheartedly. I want you to understand that boys and men can be raped just like women and girls can be raped. I want you to understand that you need to actually know a person in order to be sure that they are on board. I don’t want you to ever get kicked in the gut as you realize that someone you were with feels violated and used. Not all people feel safe or okay with saying “no” or “stop” or “don’t”.

I want you to understand sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy and life and what condoms and birth control really mean, and the fall-out of “safety” not always being 100% safe. I want you to understand what abortions are, and that they aren’t an undoing of a mistake. They are a huge hulking looming decision that has all kinds of consequences. I want you to understand the crazy emotional fall-out that happens when both people aren’t on the same page about the “right” choice to make. I want you to understand that the whole idea of adoption isn’t a quick fix, either. That it’s emotionally complicated, often comes with postpartum depression, almost always comes with questions and grief and regret. That after you give up your baby you bleed for six weeks and your breasts fill up with milk and your eyes fill up with tears and that it’s not like anything from a movie. That you’re left with all the what-if’s and the missing and the sadness and the regret even when you know it was a good decision. That it’s seldom done in a way that is fair to everyone, and it is a beautiful and sad and wonderful but horrible choice all at the same time. I want you to understand that when you have a child you don’t sleep for more than an hour or two at night for two or more years. That having a child before you’re ready comes with tremendous changes to your life and that it teaches you a level of responsibility that makes all the responsibilities of sex and relationships and abstinence and homework dog walking and litter box cleaning look silly small.

That sometimes when you have a child you end up raising that child all on your own. That other times you end up in a relationship with someone that may not have been the right person. That sometimes you end up going to court with a person that wants to take your child away from you and that will go to the end of the Earth to do so.

I want you to understand trust. The type of trust where you communicate and share thoughts and feelings and words and truths as openly as you are thinking about sharing your body.

I want you to understand that sometimes you will trust someone so completely and then learn that you gave your trust poorly and that you will have to live with the fall-out along with heartbreak.

I want you to understand what pornography is before you view it. I want you to know that it is not what real sex is like.

I want you to understand that the “love” and sex that you see glorified in movies… Is not real love or real sex and that you don’t see real relationships in movies. At all. Ever. For example, you’ll never want to kiss passionately first thing in the morning because everyone’s breath is going to smell like that chipmunk that got killed by the cat and that rotted away under the deck. And that morning breath really isn’t sexy no matter how much you are attracted to a person.

I want you to understand that full-body tingle that feels like real true love? It is going to disappear after you’ve been with a person for some time. It’s replaced with other things. One of those things is annoyance about silly little things. I want you to know that you shouldn’t mistake the disappearance of that tingle for the disappearance of love any more than you should think that just because the water in the pool doesn’t feel as cold after 20 minutes that you’re no longer swimming.

I want you to understand that everyone has an opinion about sex. That you should do it, it’s no big deal. That you shouldn’t do it at all ever until you’re married. I want you to research and understand those things and what they mean and why people think those ways.

And then I want you to make good responsible choices. Something that is going to be hard for you, considering your facilities for self control aren’t fully developed until you’re closer to 21. Considering that peer pressure can be ridiculous and insecurities can be pretty terrible.

But I want you to try.

Mostly I want you to come to me to talk about things. To ask questions. To share fears and to talk about heartbreak. Not because I don’t trust you.. But because you need someone there to be a safe person. I would like to be that for you.

I’ve been young and I’ve made mistakes. I’ve been stupid and I have done stupid things. I won’t get mad at you if you do stupid things, too.

I’d like you to take it slow and safe, though. Not because I’m squeamish, but because things always work out better when you know what you’re doing and when you’re sure of who you are with. First times are almost always terrible and awkward. No reason to rush into that and have first memories be ones of regret.

When you are ready you will know that you are ready rather than just wanting to be.

Wait for that, at least. It is worth it.

This stuff isn’t as simple as putting a condom on a banana or understanding what stuff goes where. It’s not as simple as getting an A+ in the sexual education class taught by a jaded high school teacher. It’s like driving, like getting a job, like real life stuff. Not like passing a history quiz or cramming for a mid-term.

It’s real. And I hope you understand that before you get involved in all the different details that involve an adult sexual relationship.

<3 Mama

I Am Still Not a Human Pacifier- Comfort Nursing After Two

Dear Daughter,

You turned two this past April. Now it’s June. You are twenty six months and counting. We nursed past the minimum recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics. We nursed past the minimum recommendation of the World Health Organization. There are no more minimums to pass. We’re running out past our goals, past those finish lines. You nurse still, and it seems you will for quite some time yet to come.

When you were three weeks old I wrote you a letter about comfort nursing, about not feeling like a human pacifier.

There is a school of thought that looks down on the idea of mothers being pacifiers instead of the use of plastic pacifiers. There is another school of thought that looks down on the idea of pacifiers at all- human or plastic. I don’t like those schools. I like the one that says it’s okay to find human contact comforting. That comfort is free. That emotions are real. That we are strong enough to deal with them, but that comfort helps make them more manageable. That no, we don’t need comfort. We’re strong enough to deal with a multitude of things all on our own. We’re strong enough to be separated from our tribe, our family, and strong enough to deal with the stress that happens when that occurs. But.. Even though we are strong enough, why? Is it necessary to live out our days being this strong if someone is willing and happy to help, to be our tribe, to snuggle close and be a source of comfort?

You still comfort nurse. It’s not the only type of comfort that you have. We are big on physical contact in this family. We’re big on hugs and snuggles and wrestling. On read-alouds and carrying each of you sometimes even when you’re big enough to walk. Not because you’re unable to walk. But because it’s a form of closeness when you’re feeling small and overwhelmed. Sometimes you want to nurse. Sometimes you want a hug. Sometimes you want to sit across from me and tell me as much of the story of what happened as you have words for, waving your hands about for emphasis, and gladly taking any new words that I have to offer for your experience.

Honestly, you’re comfort nursing less and less. You fall asleep with your head on my shoulder and my hand tangled up in your hair as I rub your scalp. You trace my collarbone with your fingers and watch the ceiling fan as it spins above. Sometimes you pull your head back to my elbow, look up at me, and tell me about something you just remembered. And I listen and smile and respond, then remind you that the sun is setting and it’s the end of the day, and that it’s time to snuggle down to sleep. You whisper “yes” and nod your head, happy with the comfort of the familiar.

I feel no need to wean you from this, as you are weaning yourself. Gradually. Gradually weaning yourself. I could say “Okay, you’re able to take other things that means that you’re done.” and I could push you away from this particular thing. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with doing that. We’ve made the minimum, we all have limits and boundaries that we set as needed.

When you are upset you come running for hugs, for kisses, for conversation, for closeness, for nursing. You do not ask for ice cream, a toy, television, or distraction. You look for a safe place to feel. You’re the one to know when it’s time to move past that type of comfort on to other types of comforting things. I’m not waiting on a minimum anymore. You’re two. Now we’re just waiting on you. Happily.

<3 Mama

Note: I know that this is a touchy subject for some moms. Nursing aversion is VERY real and can make comfort nursing into a particular type of hell. Some moms had the goal of two and were not able to make it for whatever combination of reasons. Love to you mamas, no judgement. Sometimes our lives don’t line up with our wishes and desires and best intentions. I find the joy where I can, because there are enough of those things that I wished for that never came to be. That sadness is like quicksand. Try not to be sucked in. <3