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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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Be Yourself

My Nature is to Prune and Grow, Bloom and Let Go

God grant me the serenity to stay true to my nature and out of the fray. Help me to avoid getting caught in the snarling hailstorms of blustering blowhards.

I’ve been avoiding a lot of news and newsfeeds lately. I’m careful what I watch, who I follow, where I click. There’s too much negativity out in the world. I prefer fresh air, like-minded friends, and diversionary television.

So I take early morning strolls, comment on babies and good books, and watch Peaky Blinders and Dateline — shows where I can revel in my violent hidden tendencies with a giant bowl of popcorn and couple glasses of wine.

My morning walks are my salvation. They center my soul and keep me from losing my shit. I focus on the glory of God’s nature, not the gall of the human variety. There’s goldenrods and Queen Anne’s lace in the empty lots, and often deer — ears and hooves high and tremulous — crossing the stretch of asphalt round the back curve. There’s even a fat butterscotch cat who thinks he’s a lion. He leans into the hillside, stalking me, then bolts out in a daring display of puff and whisker. And then there’s the birds. So many birds. Starlings, maybe, or finches and wrens, weaving good morning ribbons in the air above me, the birdsong and banter restoring poetry and peace.

Nature makes it so much easier to forget the anxiety, stress, and claustrophobia I feel inside my world. Forget the unchecked egos, bitter orange lies, animosity and entitlement I see outside my world — inside television and computer screens. Forget the politicians heaving insults like planks from their podiums at press conferences. Forget the friends sliding insults like splinters beneath their fingers on keyboards. All aiming to injure. To maim. To show they’re better than the other person.

But sticking with my nature makes it easier to handle. Easier to sidestep the bile and settle the rancor stirred up in my soul. Stay true to my nature. I was born a pacifist, a lover, a nurturer. Give me calm, give me quiet, give me family. Give me the mornings with the mist on the river and a sliver of gold on the horizon and I will wait for the sun to climb. I will search for goodness and light.

But I can defend myself if needed. I’ve done it before, I can do it again. If your aim is to dismantle joy, if your aim is disrupt peace and spread poison, I will take action.

I won’t scald you like the midday sun. That’s not my nature. No, in due course, I will slice you away like the poisonous deadwood and self-serving fungus you are. You will not poison me or mine. You will simply find yourself detached — from my heart and my country.

That is my nature — my violent hidden tendencies when push comes to shove. I hack off dangerous, parasitic infections and move forward.

As I sit here on my porch, fresh from my walk, my pruning sheers in hand, a crow caws somewhere off in its own dark wood. It’s what crows do. It’s their nature and they can’t change. The sky layers itself in whisper-gray felt, harbinger of the coming storm.

Follow your nature, and I’ll follow mine. Some things — and people — must be severed and left where they fall.

Let Him Be Him

See this beautiful boy living his best life, loving his mermaid pajamas and Elsa dresses? Little girls play dress up and nobody bats an eye. Little boys, and the world starts flapping its lips.

This Friday was pajama day at school and my beautiful, joyful youngest twin had been planning for the event for a couple weeks. He wanted to wear his mermaid pajamas.

His father and I were a bit nervous. We know how people can be. Despite momentous gains in how society treats differences, we knew that this particular form of different is still subject to so much ridicule and contempt.

But we also knew that our boy’s face absolutely transforms when he wears what he loves. And he loves the clothes society says should only be worn by girls.

But y’all… these clothes make him so incredibly happy. You’ve never seen such joy. Most days he comes home from school and immediately sheds his “boy” clothes to put on the “girl” ones. He spins and twirls and the stars align.

But to the outside world, we knew his love of pretty things could be criticized. And it was.

But why?

Why does it matter?

His father and I refuse to hide his light under a bushel. We refuse to dampen his joy. We refuse to tell him he can’t be who he wants to be. Which is happy and proud.

But Friday, he came home from school far from happy and proud. He came home shamed and ridiculed. For wearing mermaid pajamas.

They are CLOTHES, for goodness sakes. They just cover our nakedness. It’s what clothes are designed to do.

And who ever created the rule that boys can’t wear sparkles and sequins and things that spark light and joy anyway? Name them.

And don’t tell me it was God. God gave us beauty in every form. (And this boy of mine, he loves to revel in beauty of the uncommon form, for boys, anyway.)

But if you tell me it stems from religion, I’ll believe you. But tell me where in the bible it says boys can’t wear dresses? Pretty sure Jesus wore one, by the way.

This boy of ours loves satin and tulle and unicorn costumes.

And why shouldn’t he?

Boys in Scotland wear kilts. Christ wore skirts. Why can’t boys in Georgia wear mermaid tails?

After all, they all do the same job. They all cover our nakedness… the shadow left behind by original sin. Human nature — and its capacity for cruelty — that’s the sin. That’s the shame.

Not the clothes. Let him wear the clothes that cover his nakedness AND spark his joy.

Let him be happy.

Let him be him.

And if you can’t do that… then JUST LET HIM BE.

dancing in the dark: a writing metaphor

Do you ever feel ugly and unseen? Like despite all your best efforts and your showing up to the dance without fail, all prepped and prissy, you still somehow blend into the cinderblock gym wall?

I’ve been battling with that lately. I put in the work, I give it my all, I practice and polish and pirouette in what I think is on par with the rest of the partygoers, and still nobody calls my name.

Despite my best efforts, nobody gets me.

I’m awkward maybe? A little off the current beat. Half a step ahead? Behind?

Am I not authentic enough? Is that what it is? Am I unapproachable? Do I appear fake? or overdone? shallow?

Are my curls too tight? Do they get lost in the whirling nonsense of it all? Never-ending loops of purple prose that make folks feel queasy and upended?

Or am I too straightforward? Too stark? Do I cut to the chase too quickly. Nobody’s ready for that revelation. It’s too sharp. The razor-like edges cutting at the truth they hold cushioned in their souls with such reverence.

That’s never popular, I know — to challenge somebody’s security. To show them an abyss where fear and pain are always lurking a scant foot away and maybe prompt them to leave their religion or stay with the beast in the ballgown.

It’s never too popular to pull alarms when all anybody really wants to do is just dance.

Or maybe it’s because I speak with too much color? Swear too much? Too often? Take things in vain that they feel I shouldn’t?

Or is it more that I’m one of those people impossible to follow? Who stutters and stalls or rambles my way into slippery little sidesteps of fluid nothingness? So I’m absolutely zero fun to follow.

Do I question too much? Too many things? Am I too challenging? Am I ruffling too many feathers? Stirring up too much shibboleth? It’s kind of something I tend to do.

Yeah, I tend to pour it on too thick. I fail to blend my blush.

Or maybe…

Oh, honestly, I really don’t know what it is about me. But I do know I don’t like the feeling. Of no-one making eye contact. Of no one acknowledging I exist. Of feeling like the girl shoved over there in the corner — the one everybody knows really wants to be a part of it all. They all know she really has something to say, but everybody also thinks what she’s got to say isn’t what anybody really wants to hear because it’s going to be one of two things — an uncomfortable truth or some sort of sentimental bullshit.

That’s where I’m at, and that’s what I’m feeling lately. And I somehow have to get through it. I have to find some strength and some faith in myself and who I am and what I’m doing. I have to believe that I am good enough to be here. I am not somebody to ignore.

Don’t skate your eyes around so you don’t have to see me.

Look at me. I am here and I am a force to be reckoned with.

This dance is my destiny. I am here by choice.

And I am dancing a brilliant and beautiful number that nobody even knew existed.

So I will just keep on dancing like no ones watching. Because right now, no one is.

But I’ll keep my pockets full of proses, dancing in the dark where you think you don’t have to see. Where you watch me with sidelong glances while I prove you wrong and pull my weighted words out into the light you try so hard to deny me.

I am here. And one day you will hear me. See me. Dance with me.

When your Son Loves Princesses and your Society Wants him to Love Trucks

I have a son who loves princesses. Elsa is his all-time favorite, but he has a warm spot for Belle and Moana too. He wraps his small, three-year-old frame in his winter-white fleece blanket – the one he’s had from infancy, and says: “Look at me, Mama. I’m Elsa. I’m different.”

And what he means is, he’s not the Elsa with the purple cape from the beginning of the movie. Instead he’s the Elsa who has run away and morphed into her snow-and-ice gown. He’s Elsa after her sister Anna says, “Elsa, you’ve changed. You’re different.”

Yes, Elsa is different. And so is my little one. They are both different from what society expects of them.

And my heart swells with pride at his imagination and passion — and swells with the weight of worry and fear. As he twirls around in his soft, fuzzy make-believe world singing “Let it Go,” scorpions flick poisonous daggers deep in my gut.

He is so perfect and so passionate. And so perfectly poised for persecution.

And people will surely persecute him. They will be cruel. I know it will come. I know someone will laugh at him – and soon – for his adoration of Elsa and her beautiful snow-and-ice gown, a gown he begs for every time we go down the Disney aisle at Target.

And every time he asks, I am cautious and uncertain about how to reply. I don’t want to encourage him because I don’t want him to face a future filled with pain. But I don’t want to discourage him either — because I don’t want him to face a future filled with pain. Either decision ends in pain.

I’ve seen people I’m close to embrace their differences and suffer horribly at the hands of society’s narrow-minded expectations. And I’ve seen people I’m close to reject their differences and suffer horribly at the hands of their own fear and self-loathing. So what do I say to him?

So much pain – and certain pain no matter how I respond — all because society has created tiny, rigid little ideas about round holes and square pegs. Round holes are supposed to love glitter and tutus. Square pegs are supposed to love gearshifts and choo-choos. That’s the deal. That’s the rule.

And it’s ironic, really, because society is always throwing around clichés that encourage individuals to be…individuals:

Be Yourself. Express Yourself. Listen to Your Inner Voice. Break the Mold. Embrace your Differences. Be Confident. Be Courageous. Be True to Who You Are.

But the clichés are lies. All lies. Society only approves of you being you if you properly align with the gearshift and choo-choo, glitter and tutu gender agendas.

Being yourself can be hard – especially if you are a little boy who doesn’t like what society says you should like. Little girls who like to play ball and climb trees don’t get judged as harshly. (No, that comes later. The walls and glass ceilings and double-standards and bitch labels come quickly, but not yet.) When they’re little, they’re allowed, encouraged even. Being a tomboy is socially acceptable.

The same cannot be said for little boys. There is no equivalent of tomboy for a little boy who likes “girl” things — nothing positive, anyway. Society doesn’t like it when little boys like princesses and the color pink.

And somebody has already been making my son question his preferences. I don’t know who, but I know it has happened. In the last couple of months, he’s asked me on multiple occasions… “Mommy, are pink and purple girl colors?”

And each time, the question has made me cringe. “No. Boys can wear pink and purple too. Anybody who wants to can wear pink and purple. Daddy’s football team wears purple, right? And they’re all boys.”

And he nods at me and says, “Yes, anybody can wear pink and purple.”

And I hug him tight and wish I could stop the world from barging in on this boy and his favorite things.

“I’m Elsa and I’m different,” he says again, spinning in his winter-white fleece blanket.

I think about his “different” Elsa – the Elsa who is forced to run from society because her true self was covered and masked and contained until she – and everyone she loved — was almost destroyed when it finally broke free.

I refuse to let that happen to my sweet, innocent, passionate son. If he loves princesses, and the color pink, and Peppa Pig’s playhouse, and Strawberry Shortcake, and Barbie – and he does, he loves them all — then by golly, I will not tell him that he shouldn’t. I will not batten down his feelings beneath metaphorical gloves and deny him access to his true self.

Ultimately, this decision will hurt us both. His innocence will be shattered one day, and when that happens, my mother’s heart will be shattered too. But I believe it will hurt far less than teaching him to hate who he is and how he feels.

And I have no idea if my son will continue to feel this way as he grows up. I don’t know if he will grow to be a teenager who loves princesses or a man who loves princesses… but if he does that’s all right. And if he doesn’t, that’s all right too. Only our all-loving God knows that truth. But right now, my son does love princesses and he does love pink. And it (and he) is perfectly all right.

I love my son. And I truly believe that the only thing that can stop hate, is love. And to do that, we have to love ourselves first. So there is my answer. That is how I must answer my son when he tells me he wants an Elsa gown for Christmas. I must tell him, “All right.” I must tell him – and show him – that this is all right. That he is all right. That he is better than all right.

He is different. Elsa would be proud.

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