To Solve A Mother-In-Law Problem

If you Google, “What to do when your Mother-In-Law hates you?” you’ll realize that a) You aren’t the only person dealing with such an annoyance, b) Some Mother-In-Laws are certifiably crazy and c) No one really knows what the hell you are supposed to do when your Mother-In-Law believes you’re an evil villain. Here are your options: Kill her with kindness. Make your significant other deal with her. Ignore her. Ask yourself if you are at fault. Try to find mutual topics to discuss. The list goes on and only gets more condescending — as if you haven’t tried. I’ve surrendered to the power of the Internet, hoping its mystical wonders will inform me how I can get along with a woman who seems to be planning a ritualistic sacrificial ceremony in my honor. If drowning her in kindness worked, I wouldn’t be scouring the internet for answers.

Image Credit: Anne Taintor

Full disclosure: I’ve dated a lot of guys seriously. Which means that I’ve met a lot of parents. I’ve wooed them with my sharp ability to say dumb things because I’m nervous, my palms are sweaty and oh my god, they won’t stop asking me questions. I’ve snuck into houses when parents weren’t there because they hated me and thought I was going to be the undoing of their perfect conservative son (who, during mid-make out session, blurted out that he was gay and wept into my lap as I sat there stunned). There were the parents who found handwritten love notes in the pockets of their son’s jeans and confronted me about the fact we were expressing our teenage hormones by holding hands and pretending we were going to be together forever. My ex-husband’s parents routinely injected their opinion into our sex life, our money and snooped through my personal belongings because they had a key to our house.

So I swore off serious relationships. Mostly because of my ex-husband but partly because I couldn’t handle meeting another set of parents. I could barely get my own parents to like me which only stood to reason that it simply may be a lost cause. I say a lot of things that I don’t follow through on — I’m giving up Diet Coke. I’m going to stop swearing. This is my last pack of smokes.  I’m going to bed before 11pm. It’s a lovely sentiment, but most of the time, I’m full of shit.  Obviously, when I met my husband and fell in love, of course I wanted to meet his family. Sure, there was a nagging voice at the back of my mind screeching that it might be a terrible, no good idea, but I ignored it. At first glance, his family appeared to be incredible. I was sure my days of fearing my in-laws were long over. I had won the lottery.

Yet, here I am ten years later, still Googling, wondering where the hell everything went so wrong, but more importantly, why I still care. I could write a novel about all of the ordeals that have been encountered in the last decade; the tears, the fights that have been had, the insults, and yet, despite all of that, I still care to make this relationship better. Even my husband who once was bothered that his mother seemed to loathe me with the fire of a thousand suns is finished, “I’m so over this shit. You should get over it too.” But I can’t, because I desperately want these people to like me. My increasing need to have them like me is both sad and really, really pathetic.

This is precisely the reason it’ll never happen. There are other variables that would also hinder it from happening (like them wanting to like me), but it won’t happen when I’m begging for validation. My incessant OMG, PLEASE LIKE ME says way more about my insecurities. How far am I really willing to go in order to get someone to like me? Why am I so insistent on forcing his mother (and family, really) to like me? In 30 years, I’ve learned that I’m not for everyone. I’m frustrating. I can be loud, especially after a glass of wine. I don’t believe in god, yours or anyone elses. I say what I’m thinking almost 98% of the time. I’m a bit of social recluse and don’t love relationships that need constant attention. I’m rough around the edges, and unlike some people, I’m absolutely not ashamed of it. You either like me or you don’t. Except here, apparently.

Maybe I am the problem.  Perhaps, I have an evil lair that I go into when I’m not conscious, planning all of my schemes and shenanigans. There is a small chance that I am as horrid as my mother in law describes, that her tall tales she distributes to anyone who will listen are factual and not exaggerated on any level.

Or, maybe, like so many other women who have Googled the same phrase, we are just the victims of the crime we didn’t even know was a crime — We married their sons, and opted to not be the version of the fantasy daughter in laws they had concocted in their heads. For some reason, I naively assumed that loving her son, and him loving me would be enough to bridge the gap. Instead, I feel like I was invited to a war.

So, what’s a Daughter-In-Law to do? How do we overcome this timeless trial? We just don’t. Not because we don’t want it to be overcome, most of us do. In order for a relationship to work, both parties have to be open to having a relationship first and foremost. In my own circumstances, I have pulled and stretched, I have stepped out of my comfort zone, and tried to make this woman my friend, to get her to see I’m not as bad as she thinks. For years, I’ve wanted nothing more than to be accepted by my husband’s family, and the cold, hard truth is: They don’t like me.  Would it be great if they did? Yes. But it’s not mandatory. Something I wish I had figured out long ago.

Now I’m going to Google, “Why doesn’t my Mother-In-Law realize I’m awesome?!” and I’m not going to even click on a single link because I am awesome — and so are you–(though, I may click on the deliciously delightful memes to warm my cold, heathen Daughter-In-Law heart).  If our in-laws don’t see that, it’s completely on them.

We Got This, Maybe

“You’ve done this before,” I snapped at him. My husband was being helpful, he was telling me everything I needed to hear, and yet, I didn’t want to hear any of it. “This is my first time on this ride. I don’t know how to do any of this. I don’t know what we’re supposed to do. I don’t know how I’m supposed to react. I feel like I’m not allowed to be affected by his behavior. It’s hard. It hurts.”

Image Credit: Lisa Widerberg

Tears were cascading down my face as my husband and I stood in our kitchen, facing off but not really. We’d finished a Good Day. While my husband had taken our daughter to a lacrosse game, my son and I had gone for lunch, done some clothes shopping, and picked up some books. It had been a Good Day. So, when we came home, and our son proceeded to completely rage, I was at a loss. What the hell had just happened?

My husband was waxing poetic on how long it had taken his family to figure out how to handle his brother who has both physical and mental disabilities. We’d learn to find the triggers, he said, but all I heard was that until we did our life was going to look like this, to feel like this, and I just couldn’t stomach that. I didn’t want to hear that it was going to take another five years.That every day would be a struggle until then. Really though, all I wanted one day. Just one fucking day where things were okay. Where I didn’t have to listen to my son scream at me, and laugh maniacally as he destroyed his room, piece by piece. I wanted a day where I wasn’t questioning the medication, and making plans for how to handle the next problem. One fucking day.

We almost had that day, and then it just vanished.

I’m still grieving the loss of the Magical Diagnosis that my husband and I had conjured. I have no idea why I thought having our son diagnosed would suddenly make all this chaos stop. I have no idea why we hung all of our hopes and expectations there, and yet we did. Almost two months later, I feel like I’m still reeling, like I’m barely surviving. “It’s not about you,” I keep whispering to myself in those moments where I feel like someone is holding me under water. “Just keep pushing forward, it’s for him.”  And so we do.

Inside, the riot had subsided, for the moment, so I took a moment outside to take a breath, to let myself sob quietly. I heard the door slide open, and my husband stood beside me, sighing.

“We’re in this together, you know that right?” he asked toward the night sky.

“I know. You just have more experience than me. You know more than me. You don’t take this as personally as I do, and I know its not him, I know it’s not him, but how can I not fall apart when he screams that he hates me and has never loved me?”

“It is hard. It’s not fair in so many ways, but this is what we’ve been dealt. We got this.”

I laughed, still crying, and responded, “Yes.”

We’ll get our Good Day one day.

The Glue

“I’m working all weekend.”

I felt my shoulders sag, but I only nodded, and empathized, “Oh, that sucks. Do you get time in lieu?”

“Yeah, I’ll take it at the beginning of February.”  Another nod as I went back to wiping down the counters, and planning out lunches for the next day.

“But, I’m going to take the kids in with me on Sunday. The store isn’t open. They love going with me when they can, so we’ll make a day of it. I’ll only be there for a handful of hours…”

My face lit up like Christmas. I didn’t want to sound too eager, “Are you sure?”

This time, he nodded.

Somewhere along the line, I told myself that our new normal wasn’t going to be permanent. I don’t recall when I did this, but as I sat with my Day Timer last week, going over the long list of appointments we had, I realized that this wasn’t going to end. From now on, we’d always having something on the go, some specialist to see, meetings or lengthy phone calls, medication to get and understand, carefully placed in amongst our normal activities. There’s more things, and apparently, less time. Especially for me. The one who juggles the balls of our lives, making sure that our cohesive family stays that way, sometimes giving up time I’d squared away for just me. Sneaking in pages of my books late at night, or during lessons. Multi-tasking so that everything on a daily basis gets done, so that everyone else is taken care of.

And, that’s okay, mostly.

Here though, my husband had presented me with a rare opportunity. One that if it had been a physical gift, I would have wrapped my arms around while squealing for joy. Time. Alone.

This morning, after I’d helped get the kids ready for the day out with Daddy, I shut our front door, and padded back up the stairs where I poured my coffee in silence. I curled up on the couch, in silence, feeling the warmth of my cup through my fingers, letting the silence fall around me.

For about an hour, I sat and listened to the way the house sounded when there was no movement, when I was not moving, only breathing. My thoughts drifted in and out of my mind, carefully, loudly, gently, and aggressively. I continued to sip my coffee, lapping up the incredibly luxury of these seconds, these minutes. Beside me was the to-do list I’d meticulously crafted throughout the week in anticipation for these hours. I was going to tackle it, and easily finish it before my family returned.

Instead, I opted to do nothing, although it wasn’t really nothing. I sat with myself, alone with my thoughts. Together, we puttered around the silent house. I took the time to listen to each of the thoughts that danced in and out, the easy ones, and the hard ones, embracing each as they came, meditating, and discarding the ones that really had no place dwelling within. I just listened, and felt. Everything else on my list could wait. Today, I would be with me.

My family returned to the same house they left. I offered my husband an apology, and he pulled me in for a hug, a silent offering of understanding. The kids bounded through the house, shaking clean any of silence that threatened to linger, eager to narrate for me the exciting day they’d had as we moved into our nightly routine.

“Thanks again for today. It was lovely,” I expressed later that night.

“You needed it. You deserved it. I know I’m not good with gifts, or being romantic, or you know, being attentive when I should, but you looked like you needed some time alone. It’s been a long week.”

I nodded because there was nothing else to say.

“We need you, the kids and I. Especially now. If you aren’t good, we aren’t good. You’re like the glue of our family, love. We fall apart without you, so the least I can do is make sure we take care of you too.”

Today, I didn’t get anything done.  And that was okay.

“Just Fine” Is Not Enough

“He looks just fine to me.”

He was referring to my son, who was sitting on the bed in the doctor’s office. From my view, I could see clenched fists. He was biting the inside of his cheek because chewing calms him. To the doctor, I wanted to say,  “You know that anxiety doesn’t look like a fucking rash, right?? Because holy shit man, you have his file in front of you. There is a history of anxiety. You are supposed to be the doctor here.” I didn’t say it. I should have said it, but I didn’t.

Instead, I remarked,

“Well, yeah, panic attacks don’t last all day, generally speaking.”

He casually shrugged his shoulders as he continued to type words into my son’s file. I fought the urge to yank his fingers off the keyboard and say, “Pay attention here. Anxiety is not just a casual thing. Not for an adult. Especially not for a 7 year old boy. Stop acting like it’s nothing.” As a doctor, he should know all of these things. He’s the one with the fancy degree. There should have empathy, better bedside manner, anything other than what he was throwing down.

When he was finished with his notes, he began the long list of all the reasons he was refusing to give my son an anti-anxiety medication like Ativan.  When he was finished, despite my sound arguments, he shrugged his damn shoulders again and responded,

“This is just over school, right? Just don’t make him go. There are only three days left. I’ll even write him a note so he doesn’t have to attend.”

I let out a sarcastic laugh, allowing it to fill the room for a second before I responded, “Today it’s about school. Tomorrow? It could be about the pencil crayons not sharpened properly. Or about the fact that we did snack before I looked through his backpack. No. It’s not only about school.”

“Well, he looks fine to me. I don’t see any need to prescribe anything like that to him. He can just not go to school and I bet the anxiety will go away.”

Cringing, I remembered the time I sat in the very spot my son was sitting, explaining through tears to a different doctor what my own anxiety looked like. The words didn’t come easily, because nothing comes easily when you deal with anxiety. I was told to go on vacation to get rid of my “problem”. Because apparently at Doctor School they don’t teach you that anxiety doesn’t fucking work like that. In fact, no actual mental health issue does.

designI wondered what anxiety needed to look like for him to actually realize what we were dealing with. Obviously painting him a picture of what the panic attacks had looked like in the morning didn’t help. The letter of recommendation that my son’s Occupational Therapist had faxed over that afternoon, stating in her professional opinion and from working very closely with my son, that he needed something to get him through was not enough. Maybe he needed to have a gaping head wound? A broken bone of some sort? Or maybe I should have encouraged my son to completely lose his shit right there in the office. Maybe that would have solidified for him that he wasn’t and isn’t just fine.

Anxiety isn’t a stage performer, ready to come out on stage and show you the well-rehearsed lines it’s practiced over and over again, on cue. It’s not going to be listed in the playbill, in a cast of characters. It’s not going to show up when someone, be it a doctor, a family member, a teacher or a friend demand that they’ve never seen it or that they can’t see it. That’s not how anxiety works. It hides, it lurks, and even when it does come out, those who don’t believe it really exists, still don’t see it. Because seeing anxiety means that you have to first understand it. You have to understand that the symptoms are all familiar for those who suffer, but that it presents in so many different ways. Anxiety looks so different on everyone.

“Look, if you aren’t comfortable prescribing something for him, I’m okay with that. I would prefer to have the psychiatrist do it anyway, since that’s his field of expertise. Like I said, we were just looking to have something in our back pocket in case things go this way again. A month is a very long time. But, I understand why you don’t feel comfortable writing him a prescription. We’ll just let the expert do his job in January and send you the report.”

If he was going to refuse my son on the basis that he “looked” just fine, I was not above making sure he knew that I knew he wasn’t qualified to write the prescription even if it meant being slightly passive aggressive.

Before he walked out,  as though I didn’t hear him the first, the second or third time he uttered it in our session,

“He’s just fine. He’ll go back to normal soon.”

No. He won’t. Because guess what? This is his fucking normal, Doctor.

I’d like to say that this is just a rare breed of health professional but it’s not. All too often people are told some version of the very inane statement my son was met with today. No one should have to reach out and ask for help, a step that is courageous and incredibly difficult, only to be told that they look fine. That they should just take a vacation. That they should just avoid life. No one should have to beg a medical professional to believe they have a mental health issue, be it anxiety or depression. If the people we need to help us the most, are the same ones who are indirectly telling us we’re not really worthy of any treatment, and should just fix it ourselves, why in the hell are we so damn surprised that mental health rates are on the rise? Why do we continued to be shocked when we hear of another person losing their life to a mental health issue? None of this should be remotely surprising.

You know what’s not fine? Being told it’s nothing. Being told you are just fine. It’s not acceptable to have a doctor refuse necessary treatment because he doesn’t “see” the issue.

You can’t fucking see mental illness.

Our children deserve proper access to mental health services, including medication when necessary. Adults deserve the same. We all deserve to be trusted, by our friends, our family, but most especially those we call our health professionals.  We all deserve to be heard, to be validated and guided through the many tools that are necessary to keep mental illness at bay.

Everyone deserves better than being “just fine.”

He’s Baaaaaack

It’s that time of year. You know, when we are all at the ready on our respective sides, ready to battle over the most controversial topic to hit the internet since the whole Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays debate.  When you find yourself posed at your keyboard, ready to battle on the internet because of that one little thing that’s flooding your various social media streams. Are you ready to stand your ground?!

The Elf. It’s back.

There are the people who announce with much vigor their utter distaste for this new found tradition. It’s not enough for them to hide the pictures or updates from their social feeds. They’ll take the time and energy to write a status making sure everyone on their lists know of their grinch-like loathing for this somewhat creeptastic doll. They don’t want to see your little elf in it’s various positions, getting up to elf business, and they want you to know how they feel about it. Which, in case you didn’t know was hatred. They hate that doll so much. You need to know that.

We can’t forget the other side, of course. The Elf Pushers. The same ones who post daily updates on their social media. They may even have a hashtag for their little elf friend. The pictures range from the basic, “Our elf is back!” to elaborate set ups that were obvious pilfered from Pinterest. Ones that make you wonder just how much time and energy they have, where they find it, and if they drink a lot. They brag of spreadsheets full of the elfing schedule, proud of the time they’ve spent integrating this into their holiday traditions. They don’t care if you want to see the doll. They have a god-given elf right to show you everything this little bugger does for the next 24 days.

Then there is the people like me. We introduced the elf years ago before it became incredibly popular. He’s never done anything naughty, never anything overtly elaborate, and basically, the lazy elf just moves from place to place in our house, and delivers the letters to Santa. Some nights, he doesn’t even move positions. I think we got a dud, in all honesty. I want some pancakes in the shapes of Christmas trees, dammit.

However, this month, I pulled a stunt with our elf that I’m not sure to be proud of or ashamed of. I think I’d be shamed by both of the respective camps on this one.

You see, the kids seem to have lost that part of their ears that allows them to listen. It could be a combination of the fact that the bad weather has set in, and that my husband has been working crazy hours. No matter what the issue is, I’ve become tired of not being listened to, and winding up yelling at the end of the day because OH MY GOD DID YOU SERIOUSLY JUST MESS UP THE LIVING ROOM WE JUST CLEANED FOR THE LAST HOUR?!  OH AND YOU DUMPED ALL YOUR CLEAN CLOTHES ALL OVER THE FLOOR? THE ONES I JUST FOLDED? NO. NO. NO.

Yeah. Something like that.

IMG_2006On the night before our Elf, Locker arrived, I mentioned at the dinner table that it was likely he would show up soon. The two kids bounded into the living room to scope out all the places he might hide, remembered the ones he used the year before, and wondered if he was going to bring them a new present like he always does on his first day in our house.

I piped in, “I don’t know, you guys haven’t really been listening very well lately, so I don’t know if you’ll get a present. Besides, that’s not what’s important about Christmas.”

My daughter raced back to the kitchen table, her green eyes wide.

“Where are the broken ornaments, Mama?”

“On the shelf still….why?” I asked curiously.

“We need to hide them so Locker doesn’t see them.”

I burst out laughing because that’s precisely the exact reaction I would have had as a child if I was told that there was a creepy spying doll in my house who was watching my every move. She has a beautiful, clever mind, just like her mother.

The next day, of course, there were no presents. My son asked Locker why there were none before we sat down for breakfast where I explained again that getting presents wasn’t what this was all about. They didn’t really hear anything I said because the two kids were discussing whether he’d just forgotten them. They clearly didn’t get the point I was making. Do you remember what I said about the not listening?

I decided I was going to make my point. So I composed   composed what can only be described as a pretty manipulative elf letter. Okay, it probably wasn’t that bad, but I felt bad for making an inanimate object do my dirty work. Obviously not guilty enough because it was printed out and put with the elf before I went to bed. In case anyone calls my humanity into question, I did feel guilt. For a moment. Then I remembered all the nights of high blood pressure, and twitching eyes. And refolding laundry. Do you know how much I hate laundry?

Whatever. It’s not my finest moment, ya’ll. I know. Bring on those pitchforks!

It worked though, for now, of course. I know in a year or two, this will never fly. It wasn’t even the listening that was particularly the issue I wanted to address. I was concerned that they saw this as another opportunity to get something when I really want them to learn that the truest magic of the holiday season comes from being with loved ones and giving back. They discussed all the kids who didn’t get presents, and they decided they’d much rather that some other child got one instead. They discussed all the ways they could make sure they were being kind to everyone, and each other. They talked about sorting through their toys to donate the ones they don’t play with.

As my son got his winter gear on for school, he leaned down the stairs and whispered in my ear, “I’m sorry for not listening, Mama. I’ll do better. I promise.”

I pulled him in for a hug and said, “I know you will. It’s hard work to listen sometimes. Thank you for apologizing.”

This is about as crazy as I’ll get with our elf. Hopefully when the kids realize that it’s their father and I moving the Elf around they won’t be too traumatized by the letter, and we’ll laugh about the lengths we went to to drive home our point. Or maybe we’ll be paying for therapy for years to come because of this damn elf.

Either way, it’s just a tradition. Take it or leave it. But guys? Adults pissing and moaning, or competing over a damn doll? It’s the very definition of first world problems. If you aren’t careful, I’ll send ya’ll a little elf letter telling you to get your shit together and move on.

The End of NaBloPoMo

Well, I made it. Perhaps there was some kicking and screaming during some parts of this month, but I’ve officially crossed the finish line. You can give me a fake medal and a warm blanket. Or a cookie. No, wine. Please, wine.

The goal this month was for me to stretch my writing muscle a little further, to push myself to actually get creative with my topics, and to actually just write. That’s sometimes the hardest part of writing, the actually doing it. So often I find myself making excuses for why I can’t give myself the time to sit and write. Sometimes I write something, amazing or not, and then I just don’t hit publish. I make a lot of excuses for why I can’t give myself and my writing the attention it deserves and I always follow through on that. Which isn’t good.

This month has taught me that when I set a goal, I can follow through. Even if it means hitting publish (like I will tonight) right before midnight. It’s shown me that I can battle through the writers block, even if it means writing something I don’t love, because it’s something, and writing is just that simple. It’s introduced to me to many other incredible bloggers, and brought out my writing support system like no other.  I showed myself that even when I think I have nothing to say, I always do and the written word always forms much easier than the words that slip off my tongue.

Maybe next year instead of blogging, I’ll stop making excuses and write that damn novel I keep saying I want to write.

Image Credit: Sarah Reid
Image Credit: Sarah Reid

A Generation Crosses Over

“Let’s watch Full House!” I exclaimed excitedly to my family as we were deciding on what to watch this evening. I was met with groans and a unanimous emphatic “no”. We watched Shrek instead which still awesome.

When the movie was over, my husband and I split up to get the kids ready for bed. He took our eldest downstairs to get him bathed, while me and my daughter snuggled on the couch for an extra few minutes. I scrolled through Netflix, and found Full House, clicking to watch it.

“When I was a little girl,” I began as the opening scenes danced across our television, ” this was my favorite show.”  Her green eyes looked up at me, nodding, not really understanding a world where her Mama was a little girl just like she is now.

I got up part way through the episode to put my cup in the sink, and when I returned to the living room, my daughter was sitting on the floor, right in front of the television, legs crossed, fiddling with a strand of her hair as she watched. A lump formed in my throat as I found myself remembering a pigtailed, brown haired, oddly dressed young girl sitting cross legged, as close to the small television in her home as she could possibly manage, watching the exact family, at least 24 years earlier.  I loved that family, I wanted to be that family. It was for so many reasons an escape for me, a reason to dream about family that rallied around each other no matter what. I always wished for that as a child, and even now as an adult.

“Do you like this show?” I asked as I sat down beside her on the carpet.

She nodded, never taking her eyes off the screen. When we she was called down for her bath, she asked me to pause it so we could continue it when she was finished.

Which is what we did, then we watched one more episode because her brother had joined us, and decided it was his new favorite show. For the duration, there was silence, and then the occasional separate giggles from the kids, then the parents.

They made me promise not to watch a single episode without them.

I agreed.

What’s Wrong With An Adoptive Parent Speaking For All of Us?

This month Scary Mommy shared a piece entitled, 12 Myths About Birth Mothers. I tend to avoid these pieces because they’re generally all one and the same: “Birth Mothers are so selfless!! YAY!”  That narrative exhausts me, personally. It’s a broad stroke that completely undermines the nature and circumstances that a woman faces when she relinquishes her parental rights. The selfless byline is touted to women from the moment they walk into an agency, and then usually it’s thrown in your face afterward.  You are, as the mother who relinquished, expected to buy into this idea, and repeat it to anyone who brings up adoptions, yours or otherwise.  To discuss the nature of your grief surrounding the adoption is to openly ask for an onslaught of more stereotypical diatribe – You gave a gift, and therefore, your sadness is not important. You are angry, and bitter. Your experience isn’t the norm, so you shouldn’t bother commenting about your supposed rare negative experience.  To experience anything other than the selfless, heroic, gift-giving birth mother basically means you are wrong and unnecessary to the adoption conversation.

While this piece contributes to the Selfless Birth Mother culture, that wasn’t the most disappointing aspect demonstrated. When I finished reading it, I was curious to know who wrote it. I wasn’t surprised to find that it wasn’t actually written by a birth mother. In fact, it was written by an adoptive father who also co-founded two pro-adoption websites that prominently display perspective adoptive couples looking for the Unicorn Birth Mother. For anyone who is involved in speaking out about adoption, this isn’t shocking. Adoptive parents often co-opt the narrative frequently. I assume that Scary Mommy was hit with a PR email from said individual, with the hopes of gaining exposure during National Adoption Awareness Month, and likely didn’t see anything wrong with giving this man or his websites a platform.

That alone is the issue. It’s an issue both birth parents and adoptees face all year, not just in November. We consistently have to fight to have our voices heard over the loud chorus of adoptive parents. This was yet another case of this; An adoptive parent taking away an opportunity to allow someone who is actually qualified to give voice to this topic. There is so much wrong with giving the microphone to an individual who has not lived the birth mother experience. Yes, he has likely interacted with, and spent time with birth mothers, including his children’s mothers. There is value in that, absolutely, but only from a specific angle. If you want to know about myths that birth mothers face? You should probably ask a birth mother herself. Go a step further and ask several birth mothers, because as much as we all share the same “title”, our experience, and opinions vary.

Image Credit: Drestwn
Image Credit: Drestwn

To say that he is capable of speaking for birth mothers can be summed up in this simple analogy: I drive a car every day. I have watched people fix cars, and I even live with someone who maintains cars for a living. However, that doesn’t make me an expert on the subject, nor does it qualify me to write, or speak about the topic. You shouldn’t be taking advice from me. You shouldn’t listen to me dissect an issue with your car and believe that I know what I’m talking about. Maybe I have some mild knowledge on the subject, but I’m not a mechanic, and therefore completely unqualified to talk about fixing cars.

Those of us who choose to speak out about the issues or real myths that face birth mothers are often shushed. The most popular come back, as I detailed above, is that we’re just angry, and bitter. Of course we’re angry and bitter. Do you know what it’s like to be told over and over again that your experience, your opinion and your concerns with an industry you are intimately tied to is invalid and wrong? We’re not saying, (at least I’m not) that your happy experience as a birth mother is incorrect or wrong. What we’re saying is that this experience is far more complex than just cliche, positive statements, and it evolves over the years. That side of the birth mother experience desperately needs to be heard.

When we hand the microphone to someone who hasn’t lived the experience directly and speaks from a place of privilege, it sets the discussion back. We need to be aware of who is speaking, and need to hold the authors and even the publishers accountable for giving a non-expert a place to discuss a subject that they are not qualified to speak on. Readers, in this particular case, should have questioned why a male adoptive parent was penning this article, and why the website had not sought out the appropriate voice for the piece. Beyond that, as #flipthescript (for the adoptee voice) has shown this month, it’s imperative that we make room for all of the voices in adoption. All of our experiences are relevant, and necessary.

Simply put, if you aren’t an birth mother/father or adoptee and the discussion requires input from one of us? Pass the microphone on, and wait until it’s your turn to speak.

Go Away, Winter

I like to avoid winter as long as humanly possible. I’m a fall sorta gal. I like the crunchy leaves, and the (fake) uggs, and the sweater cardigans that I don’t really have to wear with a jacket, but if I do I can wear a nice light peacoat. It’s enough layers to still make me feel pretty, and not like the Goodyear Blimp. The days are still relatively long, but not so long that the kids demand that I’m lying when I tell them it’s bedtime at 8pm. I really, really love fall.

However, in Alberta, we don’t get much of my favorite season. We get a month, maybe two if we’re lucky, before it snows. This year we got snow at the beginning of September, which was technically still summer. This stung particularly because the last snowfall was in May. It meant we had only three months without snow.  Our seasons defy the natural calendar, laughing in their faces, snowing in the months where no one should ever have to see snow. Winter in Alberta is a giant asshole that doesn’t listen to boundaries.

Ask me why I live here again?

Of course, when the weather called for our first real winter storm this week, I hesitated. Despite the snow in September, we’ve had a relatively easy winter. Halloween was a touch nippy, but nicer than it had been last year. My husband kept saying they hadn’t hit their real busy rush at work, which meant winter hadn’t officially arrived. Maybe they were wrong about this impending storm. Maybe it’d pass us by like all the awesome thunderstorms do in the summer. Maybe I’d be able to continue my comfortable morning routine that involves getting up as late as I can justify to drive my kids to school.

Oh, sweet, sweet denial.

Today, I was late taking my daughter to dance, though, I should point out we were’t the last ones in the door. Because I forgot that the car IMG_1988needs to be cleared off properly. Because the roads were not cleared or sanded yet (there is no point when the snow was still coming fast and furiously). On the way out of the grocery store, I got stuck at least a dozen times because OMG SO MUCH SNOW. That was hilarious to my daughter as I heaved on that car pushing it into submission, grateful I’d managed to get a spot close to the doors.  I realized that my fall jacket was no longer warm enough when I decided to walk two blocks to run an errand after my daughter’s dance class. I also needed new boots because my fall boots were soaked, and my toes were frozen.  I dealt with a cold, crying  child because she insisted on walking to the school doors to pick up her brother even though I told her the snow was super deep and she’d be more comfortable in the warm, running car.  I spent a good portion of the evening watching the road reports because my husband works over an hour away and takes a main highway that is a hotbed of accidents during the winter. I may have sent him a dozen texts requesting that he please ask his sister if he could crash at her place for the night (he didn’t listen and fortunately arrived home safely). I cursed as I had to lug our garbage bin through the freshly fallen, deep, deep snow. I contemplated keeping the kids home from school tomorrow because I just don’t wanna go out in the mess.  I don’t wanna.

Yes, I may have stomped my foot right then. My arms are fully crossed, but only because I’m freezing.

You should know, that this almost temper tantrum about the snow is part of the transition to winter. Yes, it snows every year. A lot. Yes, it’s already snowed a little bit, here and there. Yes, I know it gets cold, and should have planned ahead to get a jacket, but avoidance of the inevitable means I can pretend winter might not arrive. However, in a week or two, I’ll have gotten used to this, as one does. My alarm will be set at least twenty minutes earlier. I’ll start wearing socks without groaning about having to wear socks (I hate them). Shoveling the walkway will just become a part of my morning routine. I’ll get used to winter driving again and the extra time it takes to get from here to there. When my weather app says it’s going to be -23 without a windchill, I’ll get excited because no windchill is awesome.

Tonight though, I’m snuggling up on the couch with a warm cup of coffee, two blankets, a sweater, slippers and giving the still falling snow a dirty look. And maybe a middle finger.