Chicks Before….Well, You Know….

“Somebody asked me if I knew you….A million memories flashed through my mind, but I just smiled and said I used to.”
~Unknown

About a year ago, my best friend and I broke up.

It’s not the first time we’ve been angry with each other and it’s not the first time we’ve gone a long stretch without speaking; each of us too angry, stubborn and self-righteous to extend the olive branch that would bring us back to one another.

But in the past, it had never been a question of if we would reconcile.  It was just a matter of when.  We were drawn to each other in a way that made the idea of going through life without the other, inconceivable.

Ours was a friendship that was forged in our childhood.  We’re cousins, but our biology wasn’t what bonded us.  In our family, familial bonds are tenuous at best.  Not even a wedding, or a funeral are guaranteed reunions.

We chose our friendship and we worked to maintain it.  Even when the adults in our lives were falling apart and fighting and cared little for their collateral damage.

So in many ways, we were each others refuge.  Not just from the storms in our family, but through the storms of adolescence and all the ups and downs that come with being teenagers and then young adults.

We had our own language that consisted of facial expressions and single words that just between us, could convey an entire story.  And we had so many stories that made up a crazy, beautiful tapestry of life and love and loss and friendship and growth and adventures.

We were each others witness; keepers.

This break-up though, is different.  At least for me.  This time, it’s for good.

The title above would suggest it was a guy who came between us, but in truth, he was just a catalyst.  We are deeper and more complicated than that.

For a long time, we had been walking roads that seemed to run parallel to one another.  Our roads weren’t exactly the same, we each had our own goals and obstacles to overcome.  But we remained close enough to hold hands as we helped each other over and around and through.

But eventually, our roads began to diverge.  As we headed in fundamentally different directions, I tried to pull her onto my path.   Not because hers was no good, or because mine was so much better, but because I could clearly see that we were headed toward very different horizons.

We had grown up with one another and then we had grown out and away into very different people.  Our relationship lived solidly in the past.  It required that we constantly double back to the place where our roads still ran side by side in order for us to find one another again; back to the people we had been before we’d become wives and mother’s and had to make difficult decisions about careers and family and finances and all the other grown-up hard stuff of life.

But you can’t stay in the past.  You can visit it and reminisce and then you have to return to the present and keep pressing forward.  And I had to admit that the people we’d become, had stopped being the others keeper and witness a long time ago.

In these last several years, our friendship had begun to feel like something I was holding tight to so that it wouldn’t escape.  I was exhausted by it and as this last year has passed, I’ve wondered what to do next.

The idea that if you love something you should let it go, seemed too simple and easy, but then again, if it felt that way, I thought there was a reason for that.

And then, the other day, while driving, I heard a remix of the song 99 Red Balloons and I thought, “Yes, this makes sense,” as I sang along….

It’s all over and I’m standin’ pretty
In the dust that was a city, 
If I could find a souvenir
Just to prove the world was here
And here it is, a red balloon
I think of you and let it go….

I Don’t Know What I’m Doing….and Neither Do You.

“Opinions are like butt-holes.  Everybody has one.”
~Unknown, but I wish it was me

As a mother, I’ve grown accustomed to being on the receiving end of unsolicited parenting advice.

Just the other day, while in the toothpaste aisle at Target, I was accosted by a woman who approached and said, “You shouldn’t choose a toothpaste that contains aluminum.  Unless you want your kid to have Alzheimers.” 

How do you even respond to that?

When I was pregnant, I was diagnosed with cancer at twenty-two weeks.  Once, while shopping, a woman approached and asked, “Don’t you think you should have been more responsible?”  

Throughout my entire illness, I never had a problem sharing my story with curious strangers.  I spent many minutes in check-out aisles and at my doctor’s appointments, chatting it up with random, but kind, strangers, about my diagnosis and how it all came to be.

But this woman?

No.

She was a twat-waffle.

So, I didn’t feel bad when I suggested that she should hop into her douche canoe and row, row, row the boat far away from me….before I did actually make an irresponsible decision.

After I gave birth, I wasn’t able to breast-feed.  My son was born one week before my last chemo cycle.  Although the medications were unable to cross through the placenta while my son was safe and snug inside my womb, they could pass through my breast milk and that wasn’t safe for him.

In the beginning, I tried to “pump and dump,” which I would need to do for a minimum of six weeks after my last chemo cycle, in order to flush out all the poisons.

I tried.  I really, really did.

I followed every bit of advice from the hospitals lactation consultants.  But nothing worked.

My body had been through a lot and it seemed to draw the line at producing breast milk.    I was never able to produce more than about a teaspoons worth, which, admittedly, made me feel like a horrible mother.

As a last ditch effort, I reached out to a La Leche Group I found online.  Now, I’m sure that if you are a regular woman, who is struggling to breast feed and looking for advice, that these groups are helpful.  In my case, not so much.

I explained my situation and for the most part, I got back the same advice the lactation consultants had given me.  In a few cases, some of the women essentially said, “I’ve got nothing, I’m sorry.”

But then, one woman decided to offer me this piece of sage advice.  “You should stop your treatments so you can breastfeed.  It’s really the most important thing you can do for your baby.”

“Um….like, more important than being alive?  Bitch.”

That’s all said.  I might have added in a GFU.

Ok, I did definitely add it in, because who says that!?

And honestly, my experiences with breast-feeding shame didn’t end there.  I found a super expensive, organic formula that made me feel a little bit better about my inability to feed my baby from my own body and I’m not even kidding, but nine times out of ten, when I was at the store purchasing his food, a woman would tell me that breast milk was best.

And you know what?  I agree!  It is THE BEST.  I get it.

But, we can’t all do it and for some, we don’t all want to do it and that’s OK too.  It really is.  Because you know what’s second best to breast?  Fed.

A few years ago, while my son played at an indoor playground, a man asked me, “Aren’t you afraid that letting your son wear a pink shirt will make him gay?”

He asked, as though being gay was a bad thing.

As if I would be all bent out of shape at the prospect of being the number one woman in my son’s life….forever.

As if a child’s preference in color, is indicative of his sexuality.

But, I suppose when you can still recall the smell of the air from the bough of the Mayflower, you can sort of be forgiven for your ignorance.

I am by no means a perfect parent.  There are days I think I’m nailing it and there are days when I wish that life allowed a control z function, so that I could have a do-over….or five.

I appreciate and even love, all those Parenting Blogs that talk honestly about the trials and tribulations of raising children.  It’s nice to find a community of like-minded parents.  But the second they hop on a sponsored soap box and start using words like “should” and “never.”  They’ve lost me.

Because, I’m sorry, Karen, you don’t know squat….unless you have a PH.D in child-rearing, in which case, what you know is still debatable.  Parenting, like everything else, is constantly evolving.

My generation is the first to raise children in the age of social media.  And I think a byproduct of that, is that we’ve lost a bit of our self-confidence and our willingness to trust our gut and our instincts as parents.

It’s so easy to compare ourselves to what other families are doing.  All we have to do, is open up our computers, or our phones and we are immediately transported into the lives of families all over the world, which brings a whole new meaning to the term, “Keeping up with the Joneses.”  

But the truth is, we are all just winging it and hoping we get it right.

Personally, I vaccinate, because Polio seems like a real bitch.

I don’t spank my child, because I got my ass kicked as a kid and from that, I learned only one thing.  That I don’t want to hit my child.

Depending on the circumstances, I’m a helicopter parent.  Other times, I’m that mom, sitting in the corner, reading a book.

Some days, I make homemade, from scratch, wholly organic meals and other days we go through the drive-thru at McDonald’s.

I allow screen time, almost every day.  Some days, it’s no more than hour.  Other days, whatever.

I am at times, authoritative and strict and other times, weak and super permissive.  Most of the time, I’m weak and super permissive.

I’m a big believer in the importance of self-care; for moms and dads.  And sometimes, I prioritize myself over everyone else.  And no, I don’t feel guilty about it.

My house is obsessively clean and organized.  Because my brain needs it to be that way and I have no problem doing all the work.  In fact, I LIKE it.

I have been a corporate career having mom and a stay-at-home mom.  Both are hard.

Sometimes, I let my son win and other times, I wipe the floor with him.

And I don’t care what kind of mom the internet, or the media tells me I should be.

I can’t force him into a specific parenting philosophy.  I know this, because I have actually tried.  But I don’t think he came out of the womb a blank slate.  He was already a person. Predisposed, I guess, to certain personality traits and needs that would and do influence his interests.

So I only care about being the kind of parent my child needs me to be.  And I’m sure I don’t always get it right, but I trust myself to get it mostly right.  Because no one knows him and loves him like I do and nobody ever could.