And I Thought It Was Hard Coming Out As Queer…

IMG_3580  One day, Pam and Gave went to the little library in Bartlett that was hosting a story time. I got to go and hike Mt Tremont. It’s a wonderful hike about 3,300 ft, short, steep, excellent views. I had 3 hours of solitude. It was blissful and of course it gave me time to think. I got to thinking about this blog and wanting to write about this trip and how aside from just being busy and not having time to write, there is something else that keeps me from writing. Its this fear, that if I were truly honest about who we were and what we do, it would be too much for people, they would get scared away.

I have had to do a great deal of hiding in my life, I have gotten quite good at it. Growing up Jewish, working class and then later, Queer; there has been a constant feeling in my life of either needing to hide who I am to fit in, or pretending I belonged even though I did not. I grew up poor, in a middle class neighborhood. My father spent the better part of my childhood unemployed and searching for work and I don’t remember ever talking with any of my friends about this. Of course there was a certain amount of shame, but it was more than that, I wanted to just fit in and not have that be at the center of my friendships, I feared that if I came out about my family’s financial struggles my friends wouldn’t be able to relate to me. It was almost as If I was protecting my friends from my life.

Growing up, my last name was often mistaken for French and for several years during middle school and high school, I simply did not correct people. I didn’t want to come out as Jewish. Of course if someone outright asked me if I was Jewish, I would have said, yes, but I wasn’t going to offer that information up.

Then of course, there is my sexuality. Which looking as I do, I often get mistaken for being straight and again, I am in a position of deciding to come out or not. Of course, there are times when I have to weigh whether it is safe to come out about being queer, but mostly I have decided and re-decided to take the leap of faith and to come out. Part of this is not so much protecting myself, its this weird feeling that I have to protect other people from feeling uncomfortable around me. In my adult life I have decided to continuously work through these fears. I am out, I am proud. I am a queer, Jewish, working class, married mother. I will not hide who I am. I don’t have to protect any one from myself any longer.

Well, I decided on my hike that my next blog was going to be about coming out to you all. Which involves the even bigger challenge of our camping trip, which was parenting Gave the way we do with out a whole lot of privacy. As I mentioned previously, we strongly believe in giving Gave abundant opportunities to feel his feelings. We believe that providing him space and attention to have his feelings will allow him to have more of his mind, behave rationally and empathetically.  The process of giving him this space and attention can look very disturbing to folks who aren’t in the know, which happens to be most people.

Ok, here it is. We do this thing called Re-evaluation Counseling (RC) or Co-Counseling. It’s where two people get together and trade time giving each other attention. During this time the idea is to discharge (release, express) feelings by crying, shouting, laughing, shaking, yawning, shivering etc. In a typical session, each person takes some time while the other person pays deep attention and listens. Its all about remembering the person’s innate goodness. All while saying little more than encouraging the person who is “clienting” to feel what ever is coming up for them. The theory is that because most of us were not given the opportunity to express our hurts from our childhood, they get stored in our brains as false recordings about ourselves.  As we walk through the oppressive society in which we live, all of the new insults and hurts that get hurled at us get attached to these false recordings.  They grow bigger, like a snow ball and result in a lot of confused, irrational adults who can’t think clearly about present upsets, because we are constantly responding to things as we did when we were five.  Ideally we want to experience every new moment as it truly is, a new moment; not some recreation of a time when we were powerless and not in control of our lives (i.e. childhood).  It’s radical work, I have been practicing RC, for about 13 or 14 years. I introduced Pam to it and she was immediately into it. If she hadn’t been hooked by the theory before we had Gave, she certainly got hooked after. We both marvel at how much sense it makes and really wonder how we would even handle parenting with out it.

A typical “session, or time in” as we sometimes call it, with Gave, or any child looks a little different than two adults. For one thing, we don’t take turns. Gave doesn’t listen to us, after we listen to him. The other bigger difference is that its non permissive. We decide as his parents, as the adults, that he needs a session, or time in.

Here is what typically happens.  We ask something of Gave, like “let’s brush teeth, or let’s put on shoes or let’s clean up your toys.”  During many of these moments he can (and then subsequently will) be cooperative.  However, sometimes he just can’t.  Often we look at young children and think they are making the choice to not be cooperative, however that is not the case with children.  If they can, they will.  It is that simple.  So if they aren’t cooperating it is not because they won’t, it is because they can’t.  See the difference?  It is subtle, but it is huge.

Something is getting in his way and he needs us to get in there with him.  Of course, the feelings getting in his way are painful at a deep level, you know those times when you just feel shitty and you don’t have the words to even describe what is going on but you know on some level that you just need a “good cry.”  So we move in, hold him close, stay connected, give him good eye contact and say “We are right here for you…We have good attention for you…We want you to have these feelings…we are not confused”.   Because the feelings are painful, he fights feeling them (think of reaching for a piece of chocolate, zoning out on Facebook, etc).  So he rails against us, he cries, he hits, he fights, he tries to get away. We hold him close, keep him safe from himself and from really hurting us.  And mainly we do things to keep him discharging these hard feelings, all the while looking at him with loving attention, genuinely pleased that he is getting the opportunity to get these feelings out.

He tries to not feel these feelings, sometimes by trying to suck his fingers and twirl his hair. These are things that comfort him and that numb him. We do not let him do this. Most people would think we are nuts. When he was little and he would suck his two fingers people would say, “Oh, you have a self- soother, you are so lucky, I tried so hard to get my son to suck his thumbs.”  It isn’t that we don’t want him to be able to soothe himself, we do.  We do want him to be able to soothe himself, mostly out in the world where people are not going to have the attention for him and we want him to know that when we do have attention for these feelings (and sometimes we don’t) that we want him to use that attention to get those hurts out.  Interestingly, sometimes he will do those things that he knows will lead to a session, even as he is saying that he doesn’t want one.  He is testing, do they have attention for me?  After a session we will often ask him how it went, does he feel better and he always nods yes.

So, the bigger challenge, as I mentioned is how to give him this attention in our lovely campground? So what did we do? We went in the car! And all I could think of while I was giving Gave this loving attention and he is saying, no, screaming; “I’m all done, with this session. Stop, you are hurting me. Ow, Ow, Ow! I don’t want this, please stop doing this to me”. Is that, someone was going to call the police on us, or DSS, or at the very least the campground host would come knocking on the car window and see my 3 year old son squirming in my lap. Me holding him and trying to make eye contact, all while telling hiIMG_3617m I am right here for him and that I am so glad he is taking this opportunity to share his feelings with me, while he is kicking me and the gear shift and I am pulling his fingers out of his mouth, because I know as soon as I let him suck his fingers he ends his session and pulls his attention out and we are both sweating profusely, because the windows are rolled up. And how would I even begin to explain? …

“Well, it starts with all of us being completely good, you see, just a little confused”, I would say.

…Uh huh, I could see her saying, looking at me sideways. Sort of like maybe you all are looking at me now. But there it is, I am out and here we go…. More to come.

In Solidarity,

MommyRaye

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Camping

IMG_3618We have just returned from 6 days camping in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It is a place I have vacationed and explored almost every summer for 9 years. We had a lot of fun, there was swimming, exploring, hiking, playing. And it was hard too. Camping always has its challenges, there is setting up the tent and the tarp, sleeping butter ground, but it was hard in other ways, too.

I have to preface all that I am about to say, by explaining that we don’t just go there to camp, we go there to hike. Specifically, we go there to hike 4,000 ft mountains. One year Pam and I went for 8 days and hiked ten 4,000 plus foot mountains in 6 of those days. We are aware that hiking 4,000 footers with a 3 year old is no small feet. This isn’t a blog, about how our exceptional three year old can hike 4,000 foot mountains. this is a blog about disappointment, realignment of ones goals and acceptance.

First off, it rained, a lot. It rained the first night and every night there after, buckets and buckets of rain. It rained the first afternoon, the second morning, and then the third day while it threatened to rain all day, it actually didn’t start until 3pm and then didn’t really stop until some time in the night or the early morning. The fourth day, while it again threatened to rain, all day, it didn’t start until the night. We were wet, soggy and sullen, for the first few days. We tried to be upbeat. We had plans, they needed to shift. Our plans being that each of us, Pam and I were going to go on a solo hike up Lafayette, Lincoln and Little Haystack. Three magnificent 5,000 plus foot mountains. While the other parent and Gave would ride along the Franconia Bike path and then play at Echo Lake Beach. It was a great plan. We would all get our needs met. We would drop, whomever was hiking off, park the car at the beach and then go for a good long bike ride, end back at the beach play for a few hours and then pick the hiking parent up. The next day we would swap. It would be perfect, we did it last year- it was perfect. This year, it was raining, or threatening to. It was not perfect. We could not climb above tree line on such a wet day, we could not walk along the Franconia Ridge amongst those magnificent mountains in such weather. It would not happen, it did not happen. We were sullen. We had to readjust. Not to mention everything was wet, our tent, our shoes, our clothes and nothing was drying out, because we never saw the sun.

Those first few days lasted very long. We found fun though and were still able to take some long bike rides. The first day we did a lovely little hike, before we even set up camp, and before the rain began, up Arethusa Falls. Gave didn’t really feel like hiking though, and this was where things got really challenging. Out little woodsy boy, our baby deer, our mushroom hunter, our hide and seek player, has decided he “doesn’t feel like hiking”, he’s “too tired to hike and too tired to go in the carrier”. It was a challenge to cajole him along, but we did it.

The second hike ended up having a river crossing that was too deep and fast for us to cross with him. It had been raining so much up there that the terrain had temporarily changed in places. So we had to turn back. We did have one very successful hike with him. Here is how it started out. Gave is excited to hike and we have sun drops (which are basically “pseudo” healthy m n’ ms). He can have as many as he wants…ten feet into the hike, he no longer wants to hike, he just wants to eat sun drops. He is too tired to hike, too tired to be in the carrier. We are too tired to cajole him, too tired to convince him, we certainly can’t force him. We were really tired of our hiking style being seriously cramped by this bossy hossy 3 year old, whom we have altered everything for. Yet, what are we to do, he had to come around on his own. I cant even remember what did it, but he thankfully did come around. It was a sweet hike up Bald Mountain in Franconia Notch. It’s a very short climb up, but that last part there is a little bit of scrambling up some large rocks and he really enjoyed that and then he hiked the entire way down on his own two feet.

We were also blessed to have some very dear friends come and camp near by. They provide Pam and I with a day to go hike on our own. We climbed 5720 ft Mt Jefferson. It was awesome, magnificent, strenuous and exhausting! We were psyched!

So it wasn’t to be ten 4,000 footers, it wasn’t even three, but it was enough…almost.

In Solidarity,

MommyRaye

p.s  Ironically enough, on the day we took him to “Story Land”  (a little kids story themed park with rides and attractions), he was running, yes running from one exhibit to the next.  Not needing to be held, or carried, or fueled with sugar to sustain him.  It must be something about the woods that tires him out.

But why?

IMG_1174I have been grieving the loss of my almost 12-year-old cat Troy aka Little One.  She died on Friday.  I had our local veterinarian come and euthanize her, which was a very painful and difficult decision to make.  Troy was a very special cat, who I loved with all my heart.  She was, what I liked to call a Tiny, as if it were a breed all to itself.  She was only about 6, 6 ½ pounds. There was a short period of time where she was a roly-poly 7lbs, but her normal weight was about 6 ½.  She was a tiger/calico kitty with very handsome markings and a skinny tail that she suckled on for comfort.  She was a self-soother.

She came down with Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) probably after receiving the Feline Leukemia vaccine just two weeks prior.  It is an awful disease that moves fast.  With in days she had fluid swelling in her abdomen, her rear legs were buckling underneath her tiny body and the pupils in her eyes were different sizes.   It was painful to watch her weeble into the litter box and more painful to decide to euthanize her.  She came into my life when she was just a few weeks old and we have had a love affair ever since.  I did not imagine our relationship ending so abruptly.  My heart feels as if it has been ripped open at the bottom and the blood must be slowly pumping out.  I am seriously grieving her loss.

I know loss; it is quite familiar to me as I lost my mother just 6 years ago.  She died when I was 33, before I did any of the adult things that we want our moms to be there for, like get married, buy a house, have a baby.  That loss was/is like an earthquake with aftershocks that are just as damaging as the initial one.   My mom and I also had a love affair.  She was a wonderful mother, who loved me fiercely and thoroughly, and I her. We could talk about anything.  I shared all of my excitements and fears with her and she with me.  Ours was a love affair cut short.  She died when she was 60.  It might seem silly to you to make the comparison, but while I was sitting in the vets office waiting to find out what was wrong with Troy, I noticed the chart on the wall that said: “How old is your cat”?  My eyes followed the chart across, first to the cat’s weight.   Yes, she is less than 20 lbs., she is only 6, and maybe that makes her even younger, I thought.  She was born August 2001, just before September 11.  She was abandoned with all her siblings, in a Walgreens parking lot, that my neighbor worked at in Santa Fe.  My neighbor’s 8-year-old son caught Troy at the end of the day; long after all her siblings had found homes.  She had avoided capture until then, they brought her home and plopped her in our laps the next morning.  According to the chart that made her 60.  Same age as my mom was when she died.  I have to say I have a quiet fear of 60.  If that is my age to go I have 21 years left.  I hope and pray often I have a long healthy life, 60 is way too young for a mother and a cat to die.

The loss of a cat is of course so different than a loss of a mother.  Most of  the world has little to no recognition of the significance of a pet loss.  Pet loss, for lots of people,  is the-pat-you-on-the-back-now-get-on-with-things, kind of loss.   Some people have asked how Gave is handling it.  Each time, I am slightly struck by this question.  Gave?   He is fine.  It’s me. I am the one who is grieving.  He is fine.  Actually, he wrote a song for her on his guitar this afternoon.  It is an instrumental, melodic, somber.  We had been prepping him for her death from the moment we found out, which was only two days prior.  The two of them were very close. They slept together every nighIMG_2953t. We told him she was sick and would be dying.  This seemed to delight him.  He got this clever grin on his face and told some people that “Little One was sick and would be dying”, with a smile.  We weren’t sure if we should have him here for the vet’s visit and the euthanizing process.  We wanted him to understand what was happening.  Gave also knows death.  He saw our 3 chickens after they had been killed by a fox last year and talked about it for months.  He has heard us speak often of my mom who has died and other dear ones we have lost.   We are a full disclosure family and do not tell him the watered down versions of reality, but when I tried to tell him what was going to happen, I found myself getting pretty stuck on the part where the vet injects Troy with a medicine that was going to help her die.  I didn’t want to leave him with a fear of doctors, veterinarians or injections.  I also didn’t want him to think that we were killing her…even though we were.

Ultimately for myself, I wanted to be able to grieve freely and not dampen it for his benefit or have to take care of hiIMG_3257m during this time.  The vet was coming during his naptime anyway, so we decided, it was easy enough to have him say goodbye and simply explain that she was dying and he wouldn’t see her again.  He handled this well and gave her a heartfelt, but cheerful farewell, wishing her off on her journey.  When he woke and we told him that she died.  He held out his palms and said “Already”?  As if to say- I missed it?  How did I miss it?  Then he said, “But I wanted to help bury her”.  We left a few scoops of dirt for him to shovel over the mound.  He had talked quite extensively earlier in the day, how he wanted to help bury her even though he wasn’t sure she would like it and how he was pretty sure she would claw her way out.  I tried to explain that she would be dead and wouldn’t claw her way out and in true, almost-3 year old fashion he said, “But why”?  That is the question that I find myself asking as well.  I asked it with my mom’s death and now, with Troy’s, no matter how familiar it is,  But, why? … But, why? … But, why?  I weep.

In Solidarity-

Rachel

Yesterday was Northampton Gay Pride. Oh how I

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Yesterday was Northampton Gay Pride. Oh how I love a parade, especially a Queer one.  Of course there are the drag queens on their floats pumping out the dance music, then there are the Queer   Elders, the Gay Men’s Chorus, the countless GSA (Gay, Straight Alliances) from high school after high school. This year there was even a GSA from the middle school. Oh how I wept at that. With the struggles queer youth experience, to see the pride and passion! The support, the solidarity, its all so palpable and I get so overwhelmed, I become a leaky faucet. I just can’t help myself. I am moved to tears at the presence of large groups of people getting together for a cause and especially a cause so near and dear to my heart- the queer community! It is such a wonderful contradiction to see everyone marching together being proud and loud! I know I am not the only person that feels this way, it’s pretty moving to see, not to mention, the gay community just really knows how to celebrate!  IMG_3219

My son, who is almost 3, dressed himself in a pink and red striped shirt, his green tutu and a paper crown he made and the 8 strands of pride beads he collected. He was quite a sight and so into the parade. He kept cheering everyone on with us and then saying “even more are coming” I wasn’t surprised he shared my enthusiasm, but I was glad to see. Last year we marched in it, which was also really fun, but there is something about watching it, about supporting such an event, even though I am also a part of it, that really strikes a cord in my heart. It tugs on my heart strings. We actually do have heart strings; the chordae tendinae. The chordae tendineae, or heart strings, are cord-like tendons that connect the papillary muscles to the tricuspid valve in the heart. They prevent blood from flowing backwards from the ventricles to the atrium. I am not sure why, we have the connection between tugging on one’s heart strings associated with our deep emotions, but we all know the feeling and it hurts so good!

To all my queer brothers and sisters, Happy Pride! I stand with you, my wife stands with you, my son stands with you and all of my heart stands with you. We are connected by our heart strings.

~Rachel

The two and a half year old…

This is a little stream of conscious writing from back in January when Gave, actually was two and a half.   It just so happens to still be relevant, some days….

in solidarity,

Rachel

The two and a half year old lives in a universe that revolves around him.  The two and a half year old does not care much about anyone else.  The two and a half  year old cares not that I have an hour after he goes to sleep before ideally I would like to go to sleep.  The two and a half year old does not care that I do not want to, need to or otherwise have to wake up when he decides it is time to get up.  The two and a half year old does not care that I did not get to bed when I should have because I was so zonked out and drained that I needed to waste time on Facebook when I should have been sleeping and therefore am still tired at 6am. The two and a Half year old does not care that the hummus wrap he asked for, for lunch and I made him for lunch, that he now does not want, but instead wants hummus and crackers, will go to waste, just because he has changed his fickle two and a half year old mind.  He doesn’t care that I spent hard earned money on that hummus, he doesn’t care that there are other people who would give anything that they have, which isn’t much, for that hummus wrap, he doesn’t care about any of this.  He doesn’t care that I am tired, that my back hurts, that I don’t want to readhim any more books, that I don’t want to wipe his tush or clean up another pair of peed in pants since he wouldn’t do a pee check and use the god damn potty.  He doesn’t care about any of this.  Because the world revolves around him and only him, and it is amazing to me, that any of us aren’t still that self centered.  It is amazing to me that any of us made it to three.  Yet the two and a half year old is beautiful and adorable and sweet and loving and funny and my world does revolve around him and he is the center of my universe, and some days, multiple times a day I feel like simply pushing him out the door, ever so gently, and locking it behind him.

Why Do Kids Eat Boogers?

This is not really a question I had in my mind until I had a young one and then it really became a topic to which I gave a great deal of thought.  I don’t have an exact answer but I do have a solution.

Picture this, the young person feels something “funny” in their nose.  Not funny, ha ha… it’s more like funny, hey what’s going on funny.  And it just so happens that their finger fits inside.  They reach in, pull out the offending object and then have no idea what to do with it.  Young people, as we know, are very curious and tactile and they put things in their mouth when they don’t know what else to do. So in the mouth it goes.

I can’t remember when I started talking to Gave about this, eating, well rather, not eating boogers or even other things I deem gross.  Its not like he was doing it.  It is only recent that he has even really taken much notice of his nose.  Clearly it is my issue, maybe I ate mine and have just blocked it out until now, I don’t know.

My suggestion to Gave, was, instead of eating it, well, rub it on your pants. Yes, yes, a tissue would be more ideal, but what young person is really carrying tissues around with them.  Work with what you got, is what I say.  And since we are a family that shares information and resources, Gave knows that if he sees his friends eating their boogers, tell them – not in their mouth, on their pants.

He gets it and we actually have a lot of fun listing off things that we shouldn’t eat.  I will say “how about… poop?”  And he will reply “nooooooooooo!”  I will say “how about… rocks?”  And he will reply “nooooooooooo!”  I will say “how about… cat food?”  And we will reply “nooooooooooo!”  It gets tricky around things like plants because some we eat and some we don’t.

Lesson learned, I hope!PS:  When you google “why do kids eat…” booger comes up almost immediately as an option.   Just one more thing to worry about as a parent!

Regards,
Pam

Welcome

This is a blog, as the tagline says, about me and my wife and our adventures in parenting.  While most parents try, with all their might, to get their children to stop: crying, demanding and pushing back; we relish the tears, encourage the tantrums and applaud his resistance.

ImageWhile we hear most parents say things like “you’re ok, your’re ok” when their children hurt themselves.  Or, “oh your fine, it was just a little fall” We take every opportunity that is presented to us to allow our son to fully feel his feelings.  Sometimes even when it seems it is the last thing he wants to do.  We have been doing this with our son since he was born.  He will be 3 this July.  We believe fiercely that he will have more of his mind because of this and are completely dedicated to raising an emotionally whole person, who knows how to work through his distress.

At times our posts may seem like we are bragging, we may be, at times they may seem completely bizarre to you.  We have decided to start a blog about our experiences, to share our trials and tribulations, our joys and risks and the sheer delight we feel in our family.  We hope you enjoy it, we hope it makes you question what all the parenting books out there are telling you what to do…and question us.

Our son’s name is Gave, this is what we give him and what he gives us.

Thanks for reading, Rachel