Sitting at the dinner table, the three of us hear a familiar clink in the driveway, and I can see smiles creep across the girls’ faces, sparkles arriving in their eyes, and then we see him, the hero and his trusty steed, or rather, my husband, wheeling his bike into the shed. They begin a chant, squealing and giggling, “DADDY! DADDY! DADDY! DADDY!” You’d think the star player were entering the stadium. And to us: he is. Some days he rides in like the cavalry, saving me from a day gone horribly wrong and saving my children from a mama at her wits end. But even on a day gone right, things are still just infinitely better when he’s home. Continue reading “happy father’s day”
I feel like every day a new post like this pops up in one of my social media feeds. Today it was “9 Things Never to Say to the Parents of a Newborn.” I’ve seen others about things not to say to pregnant women, or twin parents, or even parents of kids with disabilities. And even though I have even shared a post of things you actually CAN say to parents of kids with disabilities (because hey, that one was actually helpful), I think my list of things you should never say is rapidly boiling down to only one bullet point:
- Never say a list of things people should never say.
My rules for relationships are all summed up in one very wise quote from the movie Bill and Ted’s Most Excellent Adventure: “Be most excellent to one another, and party on, dudes.” The gist is: be kind to others and yourself. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Know that generally, things said by people who care about you do come from a place of caring. If they ask how your wife who just had a baby is doing, why not assume they are sincerely asking? Instead of writing a blog post about what a moron someone is for asking you to let them know how they can help out with your new baby, why not say “hey, actually, could you come rock and snuggle the baby while we shower and nap?” People LOVE to rock and snuggle babies, and lord knows every new parent needs a shower and a nap.
Being Most Excellent also means assuming that the people you care about and talk with are doing the best they can with what they know, and will generally ask for advice if they need it. Being Most Excellent means that if you can’t make that basic assumption, that someone is doing the best they can to make the right choices for themselves and their kids, maybe what you need is to not be friends with them, rather than attempt to shame them either outright or via passive aggressive article posting about baby sleep/baby feeding/car seats. Being Most Excellent means thinking for just a second before you speak, which would save you from something dumb like asking if boy/girl twins are identical, or offering some unsolicited advice to a mother of a child with a disability.
And Being Most Excellent means that sometimes, you might have to talk with someone about how they said that thing they just said and how it made you feel. I know I sometimes need to give myself a talk about using ableist language like using “lame” as a pejorative, for example.
Rather than publish a list of Things Not To Say to a Mom of a Child with Spina Bifida, I’d rather offer an open invitation to people who know me or read my words: if you have a question, even if you’re worried about how I might take it, please feel free to ask. If you’re coming from a place of Being Most Excellent, I promise to do my best to Be Most Excellent right back. I think if people felt more free to talk and ask about hard things in life, we might spend less time tiptoeing around each other and more time really connecting. I remember being sincerely asked how I was doing when the girls were newborns and breaking down sobbing in the arms of some friends, because it was exhausting and hard and I needed a break. And you know what? Just connecting, and literally crying on someone’s shoulder, and getting a hug and some encouragement? It was way more valuable than some weird polite attempt from someone who’s read too many “never say” lists and become afraid to ask how someone’s doing.
Note: this Be Most Excellent thing pretty much only applies to people you have an actual, established relationship with. A friend asking me about, say, Claire’s leg braces would be quite a different thing than a stranger in a store, where the asking serves to point out her difference and put her on the spot in a way that I don’t want her to be when she’s just going about her day to day life. But if you’re close enough to come over with food or rock my newborn, I promise you are close enough to ask me about just about anything, and I promise not to jump down your throat. I can’t promise not to tell you if the language you use is problematic or hurtful, but I do promise not to be a jerk about it. Let’s all try to Be Most Excellent. Party on, dudes.
I was just clicking through a friend’s Facebook photos of his three daughters and it got me thinking about my own daddy, who also has three daughters, and couldn’t be happier. It reminded me of a funny story about something my dad used to loooooove to do when we were kids. Mind if I tell you a story about when I was a kid?
See, my sister and I (at the time there were only two of us, our third sister was adopted later), had an elaborate Victorian dollhouse that my parents had built for us one Christmas. More than we played with any other toy, we spent hours playing with that dollhouse. All the people and furniture were Playmobil. So they were sorta like overgrown Legos. Like this: We didn’t just have the traditional dollhouse figures, either. There was an entire “school” set up in the “attic,” a hospital complete with surgery unit on the lower porch, a police station on the upper porch, an ambulance, and EVEN A HOT DOG STAND:My dad, of course, loved more than anything to make us giggle and squeal. Usually this was related to telling us that the Belle, a riverboat in the town where we lived, had sunk, which was a guaranteed way to elicit squeals; or good old fashioned “tickle torture.” But when it came to the dollhouse, he had a secret weapon. Macho Man Randy Savage: Macho Man would regularly show up to “visit” the dollhouse and basically wreck the place, while my sister and I howled “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO MACHO MAN! NOOOOOOOOOO!” In our little minds, we could SEE this wreslter man, stomping his feet, kicking over furniture, punching the dollhouse people. My dad would just laugh an evil laugh as we tried to pull Macho Man out of his hands and push Dad away from the dollhouse. I have a feeling it was the only way this “boy” knew to play dollhouse with us. And really, we secretly loved it. We’d exact our revenge by finding Macho Man around the house and hiding him, so dad couldn’t find him and make him “come visit.” Of course, this all ended the day we “hid” Macho Man in the trash and forgot about him until after trash day. Whoops!
First of all, since it’s Father’s Day, I thought I’d take the opportunity to plug one of my favorite blogs, which happens
to be written by a dad, and which I think will be turning into a book at some point in the near future: 1001 Rules for my Unborn Son. Though I will say that I think most of the rules are equally appropriate for girls as well. Which brings me to MY dad.
My dad has 3 girls. Sometimes when a guy will mention that he has three daughters, other men will express sympathy that this poor man did not get to have a son. And while my dad has, at times, loved to crack jokes about being surrounded by women, noting that even all of our pets have been girls, he truly loves it. I know this, because my parents adopted their third daughter only a couple of years ago, so I’ve had the benefit of watching him with her, and seeing him as a dad with his daughter through the lenses of my adult eyes, filtered by my 24 years of experience as his daughter. He loves being our daddy. Every giggle or squeal that he can get out of us warms his heart. He truly lives to make us smile.
Now perhaps it’s because my dad’s mostly a cerebral guy, not into male jock stuff, but we weren’t particularly raised with ideas of “boy stuff” and “girl stuff” or the idea that my dad would have any more fun with us if we had been boys. He took us on car trips to dig up crystals and gave us long lectures on rock types and geological formations, and the way mountains are made. It would not at all be unusual for him to pull the car over to look at the strata of a particularly interesting sedimentary rock formation. He forced us to dig in the garden and pull weeds and harvest tomatoes, chores I often hated, but appreciate now that I’m an adult, trying to grow some of my own food. He created elaborate treasure hunts for us to follow, riddled clue by clue, until we got to the big treasure at the end. He also created elaborate Halloween parties, with dry ice in cauldrons and his entire bug collection on display on a kitchen table, and all sorts of other delights that scared me so bad I wouldn’t go in our basement for several years without trepidation, but which were the talk of our friends well into high school. Continue reading “happy father’s day”