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Ignoring My Little One

My blog started out as a fashion/parenting blog of unsolicited opinions.

Then, I got distracted by just complaining about how difficult and needy was my youngest son.

For the last year, or so, all I do is talk about my older kid.

And not one of you has requested updates on my younger, needy little tyke.

How dare you.

But so I don’t seem like my entire world is consumed by my older kiddo, let me report to you: my youngest is the bee’s knees, the cutest, the cuddliest, the most sickeningly adorablest, smiling-est, most wonderful little kiddo in the world.

I’ve never been the type to state, “I could just eat him up.”

But truly: I wish I could devour this little guy.

I love both my children equally.  (Yeah, right, you’re snidely thinking….and justifiably.)

But my little one gets extra points for sheer cuteness.

He sits in our laps to read books, climbs in bed and snuggles in the morning,  has an impish grin that melts hearts the world round.

Years ago, my French mother said, “He is such a flirt, such a seducer. He just charms everyone around him. Like Bill Clinton.”

Mm-k. Two things:

  1. He was charming with everyone BUT ME during that chapter. With me? Nothing but #tearlesscrying.
  2. It really is a compliment from a French person to compare a 2 year-old’s charm to Bill Clinton. I know. Go figure.

Two and a half years ago, when he was an intolerably needy monster, I probably doomed him to lifelong therapy since I was so clearly frustrated by his #tearlesscrying. He grew to repress his tears.

Definitely my fault.

Was I a monster? I’d say only partially. Even close friends of mine with children could attest, “Yeah. He’s tough. Real tough.”

But now when he’s upset he runs and hides in the bathroom where he delivers a sniffling diatribe/soliloquy recounting his frustrations to the bathroom spirits. Yep, just a muffled, whiny monologue that goes something like, “And then Daddy said I can’t have another fruit snack and then he only gave me a carrot and he got mad at me when I got mad because I just don’t want a carrot…” etc etc.

And he stays in the bathroom to have his moment. I can usually cajole him out, easily, and smother him with hugs and an explanation that no, he may not have two fruit snack packs in a row twenty minutes before dinner.

But people: as cute as his bad times are, his good times are adorable-er.

And his challenges clearly don’t require me to go venting my insecurities to the entire intrawebs like when I first started this blog (at the height of his monstrous behavior.

(Don’t challenge me on that, little buddy…please?)

But this all reminds me how so many friends said to me 18 months ago – It WILL get better.

But they probably could’ve added: But not soon.

Yeah, that took awhile. And it was absolute hell while I was in the middle of it.

But now? It’s a distant memory…

…to which I never, ever want to return.

Wait – Is this for Me or Them?

(Disclaimer: this is a long overdue follow-up to my ballet missive from a few weeks ago…reading that first will make a helluva lot more sense.)

And then I think, “Wait. I don’t even want my kid to be a ballerina/o. I’m just a cheap SOB who wants free lessons at the most prestigious ballet schools in the country!”

(Also, it’s fun to take lessons in the same building as Julliard.)

But still – ballet teaches total conformity. No one may stand out, you’re a member of a corps-de-ballet and complete anonymity is the name of the game.

I have even experienced that in certain Broadway shows – when you’re part of an ensemble, there might occasionally be time for showing acting expression. But in big dance numbers, wrists need to be uniformly flexed, arms inconspicuously stretched, and jumps need to be measurably consistent.

The ensemble often is not a place to stand out – and certainly not in ballet.

In my tiger dad moments, I obsess over wanting my children to be leaders, take risks, defend themselves and forge their own paths. Meanwhile, ballet demands rigidity and tradition in which everyone does exactly the same thing. Hell, it seems to be ballet dancers don’t even get to smile.

Sure, there are those that stand out from the pack and become the principal dancers. But what percentage of dancers become those types? And even then, principals or ensemble are trained never to talk back to their leaders and wordlessly agree to extend themselves to employ the director’s vision, no matter how uncomfortable or taxing the choreography and no matter how abusive the language coming from the leader.

So I’ve been conflicted about the ballet journey from the get-go. I know my oldest loves to dance. But her kind of dance is bouncing and twirling and kicking high like a showgirl and “ticking” (I know – I had to look it up, too) or vogueing as in my (now closed) show, Head Over Heels. It’s not exactly doing pliés for forty-five minutes or repeating 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions for another twenty.

And thusfar in her experience with bougie ballet, my oldest complains about her feet hurting.

Are her shoes too tight? Or is she bored with an hour’s worth of the very basics?

Thusfar, my preoccupation that she won’t like the uniform has yet to bear fruit. She has to wear black pants and white shirts with the other boys because, well…biological birth.

Surprisingly, that hasn’t bothered her too much.

But still…I’m not sure this is about me or about her.

But I don’t even WANT to encourage my kid pursuing ballet as a career goal. I’ve seen too much heartbreak on that end.

So why are we even doing this fancy-pants ballet? Image. And economy. I mean, come on, free ballet lessons at Lincoln Center? Who wouldn’t grand jetée at that?

Still…trying to figure it out…

Kids: Please Don’t Follow (too many) Rules

I’m nice and I strove to please my teachers.

But nice people who please teachers don’t paint the Sistine Chapel. They don’t break sound barriers. They don’t develop Apple Computers, right?

Crazy people who break rules and smash conventions do big shit.
I say that I just want my kids to be happy.

But also kind. And smart. And independent. And creative. And change the world. No pressure, kids.

Of course I want my kids to be trailblazers.

Like the kids about whom the teachers throw up their arms and say “what am I going to do with you?” And then they end up being Einstein.

But aren’t genius/artistic/world-changers often miserable, asocial sad-sacks destined to substance-abuse who cut off their own ears and live within prisons of their own artistic genius?

So then will they be happy?

Maybe we should just hope for nice.

But am I trying to raise  nice kids? Those rule-following, vanilla, boring goody-two-shoes?

(Who wants to be nice, anyway? Nice is so…insipid. Do you ever want to share a drink with someone first described as NICE? Zzzzzzzzz.)

This reminds me of a hilarious recent tweet I saw: “Parenting looks so hard. You need to raise your kid with just the right amount of trauma so they end up funny.”

Because funny is more interesting than nice.

I’ve been thinking about achievement in the context of my older kid’s soon-to-be immersion in the ballet world. He is going to begin the first ballet classes of his life and, while I’m excited for him, my Libra nature has invented this dilemma: “Do world-changers come from ballet class?”

Think about it: the point of classical ballet is to conform, to dress identically as surrounding dancers, to dance with perfection so that not one pinky finger is ever out of place.

The dress code for these classes is rigid, for both boys and girls. (More on that in my next posting because do not get me STARTED about the anxiety I’m feeling in saying to my kiddo, “sorry. No tutus in this class. It’s white t-shirt and black pants.”)

At least there’s no hair protocol for these little boys. I guess my little gender renegade will be able to rock a ballet bun.

My French sister (the witch) talks about the point of nursery rhymes was to separate European society from nature so that Little Red Riding Hood stays always to the path (dictated by the church) to never stray (citizens shouldn’t color outside the lines) and to always fear the woods (because nature is bad) and always be nice.

Oh, and sex. Because duh. Nature = sex and sex is bad and the church and society need to tame sex and pleasure. Because people should be worshipping the Church’s appointed dogma, fighting wars, and making stuff for the nobles. Not having sex.

(And of course – burn the witches. )

And I see her point. Nursery rhymes teach children the way to be good. To follow rules. To conform. To obey. To be the perfect ballerina/o in the back line.

Now…we all want our kids to be good and obey their parents.

But it’s true – the world is more colorful with the rule-breakers, by those who stray from the path, think differently and write their own destinies.

I suppose it’s all a balance, (Please reference aforementioned Libra nature.)
My kiddo already writes her own rules evidenced by her entire comportment.

So maybe classical ballet will be the perfect balance for her? You gotta learn the basics…

So then you know what rules to break and re-write.

Right?

What are You Pansies So Afraid Of?

(Apologies to grammarians for this post’s title ending with a preposition. “Of what are you so afraid?” or “You’re afraid of what, you pansies?” didn’t seem sufficiently direct.)

Seriously: what are you so afraid of?

So the Supreme Court has upheld Trump’s banning of the trans community from military service.

I’m confident this will be over-turned by lower courts since it’s fundamentally backwards and history progresses forward.

(I also fundamentally believe that Trump loves to battle the trans community so he can fire up his base in the midst of the Mueller investigation, emoluments, family corruption, etc etc etc. It’s distraction by the master-distracter, himself.)

And Trump needs to whip up a frenzy of fear in his base. Because this is all about fear. But fear of what?

The entire Republican paradigm is about fear…fear of change, fear of whatever might be un-American (defining “American” in a very narrow context, fear of Iran/Chinag/North Korea/everyone, fear of others, fear of not being the biggest/strongest/fastest, fear of strangers/immigrants/boogeymen, fear of not facing their own demons and whatever else can be feared.

This fear comes from insecurities, the unknown and not being honest with themselves.

Sort of like the adage, “Republicans love their country like children love their parents, and Democrats love their country like adults love their parents,” being so afraid is juvenile. We, as a country, need to go out into the world as citizens, link arms with every other world inhabitant, and strive to collectively save our world from turmoil and roasting to death.

And stop being so afraid of NOT being the biggest/fastest/strongest.

But back to gender.

What are Trumpettes and the anti-Trans fanatics so afraid of? Realizing their own variances in gender?

 You people do realize that LGBTQ rights are just about people speaking their truth, being honest, and loving themselves and their fellow humans, right? They/we aren’t trying to convert or recruit you.

They’ve already gone through a tremendous amount of tortuous self-questioning and discovery to know that going against the conventional grain, no matter how socially painful, will lead them to be happier, more productive, compassionate people.

Trumpettes fear the perceived undermining of their own “social masculinity”. What do I mean by that? Be they men or women, our American over-inflated culture of toughness, independence, dominance and competition; our cultural masculinity that has been so bastardized that we’ve completely fucked up the definition of masculinity.

This cultural masculinity is based on insecurity…like grown men fearing they’re losing their dominance and virility. Thinking the only way to be powerful is to dominate; being petrified of being replaced by the younger, quicker, and more handsome.

That’s the GOP in a nutshell: domination, competition, and fighting the other (even an invented “other” to feed their own insecurity) and fear fear fear.

These men and women follow Trump and buy into beating down the weak in order to compensate for their own insecurities that have stunted their own emotional growth. They go after the wusses and wimps and (let’s face it) gays. Basically, anything weak: meaning feminine and/or gay.

Well guess what, folks? The wusses and wimps end up running businesses, media and empires. Pussies conjures the strength and badassery of being a woman. And the gays? Well, don’t fuck with the gays.

And the trans community? Their honesty, passion, love and forthrightness will absolutely trump Trump and his Trumpettes.

Because all of these humans, both binary and non, are secure in their own truths, have their priorities straight, and are on a mission to spread love and acceptance throughout the world.

So I ask, again, bigots and anti-LGBTQ folk and Trumpettes: what are you so afraid of? A bunch of pansies trying to make the world a more honest place? You’re afraid of honesty and love?

You sound like real wusses.

Thanking and Letting it Go…

My mom kept lots of stuff.

After she died, cleaning out the house was entirely myjob (being an only child). And while previous to that I’d always thought, “That’sgonna be a horrible job”, I ended up loving every second of it. Going throughthe rooms and closets and chests and drawers was a surprising delight of mypersonal museumization.

I was able to get rid of most of the stuff. In fact, Ireduced a 1400 square foot house packed to the gills down to a small U-Haultrailer. And most of the stuff in the trailer should’ve just been dumped.

But it’s hard to do that when you’re genetically predisposed to sentimentality.

But we’ve hit a limit. My family lives in a NYC apartment.We have no space for sentimentality. And there’ve been some ridiculous thingsI’ve clung to if only to laugh with you, dear reader, about my absurdity. I’dlike to think I’m not a hoarder, but the items, herein, might make me look likeI’m ready to have a collection of dirty pizza boxes crowding the 23 cats’litter boxes.

But it’s OK to let things go, too. (Mind you – Istarted composing this email long before Marie Konde’s Art of Tidying Up lit up our Instagram feeds. I was just late inpublishing it cuz I was certain I’d find new items to add to this post.)

For example, this felt like my own personal stuffedanimal massacre. I searched online for a (for lack of a better word) humaneway to recycle or up-cycle my kids’ neglected stuffed animals. Seriously, theynever gave a stuffed rat’s ass about Elmo. Isn’t that crazy? Elmo never figuredinto our lives. So even though I thought it terrible to trash him, I did it,anyway. And though I felt guilt walking away from trashy Elmo, I haven’t givenit much thought, since. Oh, and as for upcycling, there’s a lot of suggestionson pinterest for turning stuffed animals into chairs and furniture (no shit)and then one non-profit that sends them to child victims of hurricanes andnatural disasters. But when a dear friend who’s brother survived Caribbeanhurricane Maria and told his sister (my friend), “We need water, but people aresending fucking stuffed animals!” I nonchalantly made a mental note notto send my kids’ discarded Beanie Boos to St. Thomas or San Juan.

My Star Wars sheets.

When I pulled these out of my mom’s massive pile of“Gavin’s childhood stuff with which I just can’t part”, I was thrilled to findthese Return of the Jedi sheets. They might as well be sand paper attheir 40-or-so thread count.

I remember the time at Target when I begged my dad forthem, and because my frugal mother wasn’t there, he acquiesced, but sort ofmade me look away so I wouldn’t see them in the cart. Not sure what the pointof that was, but I vividly remember being forced to walk in front ofthe cart so I “couldn’t see the sheets” and Dad could gift the sheets to me formy birthday.

And I was able to put them on my son’s bed for awhile.And then the little asshole ground silly putty all over the corner of thesheet. And I just can’t even with the “googling how to remove silly putty fromyour vintage Return of the Jedi sheets that your dad gave you.”Because sometimes it’s just time to say goodbye.

This Orange Raincoat

This over-priced rain jacket was a purchase from a verystressful time of my life. I bought it, impulsively, when I was going to Alaskato hike with a friend to temporarily escape a confused chapter of my life. Myhiking friend had most of the equipment and a place to stay that we could callhome base as we hiked/camped for a week on the Kenai Peninsula. And because Ionly needed this jacket one day during a glacier-viewing cruise, I actually hadthe gall to try to return it. (The store manager rolled his eyes at me.Justifiably so.)

I wore the jacket for about eight years. But when therain started seeping through every single seam to the degree that I felt likeit was actually pooling inside the jacket more than it was repelling the wet, Isupposed it was time to say, “peace out”.

This Shirt

Just – what was I thinking? 
In a way, just “documenting” the life (and my memories of) these items allowsthem to live on in perpetuity and (and provide endless laughs).

But I like having a de-cluttered apartment, more.

This Plastic Trumpet and My Childhood Cereal Bowl.

Here are two items made from 1980’s plastic that survived storagefor a very long time and with my own kids for a much shorter time. But I mean:antique plastic, right? I was mildly annoyed but didn’t get upset when, in one day, both items were broken by the jerk-face kid. (I don’t even remember which one it was.) But I suppose just because I keep something for 30 years doesn’tmean it’s meaningful to anyone else. Meanwhile, they were both having fun with the trumpet, still, despite the broken mouthpiece was basically a shard of plastic just waiting to stab toddler gums and lips.

These have already gone bye-bye.

This stash of gift bags I’ve shoved into a bedroom corner:

I kept dozens of gift bags from our baby shower and subsequentbirthday parties. Seriously: will I ever actually re-use them? Not only do theylook creased and smashed, but I alwaysforget to use them.

This reminds me exactly of the extra bedroom closet in which mymother stored recycled wrapping paper and bows. I found it so unsightly the wayshe would fold and preserve wrapping paper and then I’d have to sift throughthe scraps to wrap things, myself. But now I applaud her giftly conservatism.I’m just unable to even with this 5-year-old stack of gift bags that I neverremember to use.

Hopefully they can be recycled. Fingers crossed.

This Dated Suit

This suit.

I bought it to attend a wedding in 2007. Just because it still fitsdoes not mean it should be worn,again. Aren’t the ravages of fashion trends the worst? This was a perfectlycool linen suit for summer weddings when I bought it.

But when I dusted it off for a wedding, last summer, I looked like aclown. It just doesn’t fit according to 2019 fashion rules. And no: no oneneeds to be a slave to fashion and trends. But seriously – look at the rumpledlook at the ankles. Did I ever lookgood in this?

So life will be easier once I retire (trash) these items and withouttheir nostalgic weight pressing down on my shoulders. They’ll live on inintrawebs infamy, instead.

Why Does Everyone Hate Charlie Brown?

On Christmas night, the screen time my kids chose (for daddies’ down time) was “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.”

I was happy to hear the familiar music and dialogue in the background as I sipped bourbon and stared at my phone.

Around the fourteenth time Lucy declared, “You blockhead, Charlie Brown,” my older kid asked, “Why does everyone hate Charlie Brown?”

And it gave me pause. Why does everyone hate Charlie Brown?

In the Christmas special, Charlie’s the Christmas pageant director. Leadership often brings up conflict. But all Charlie’s trying to do is focus collective effort on getting the damn pageant done. But just because Charlie can’t control the cast doesn’t justify the near-universal derision of his peers.

It’s not like Charlie’s leading acting exercises that force Lucy to dredge up that time a teacher told her she’ll never amount to anything after which the class bully looked over and said, “you smell like shit and you’ll never find love in life and you’ll end up with warts all over your nose and children will run screaming from you for the rest of your life” so that Lucy dissolves into insecure puddles of whimpering actor-y neediness with the theoretical goal of rendering her a better actor by revisiting childhood trauma.

But I digress. That’s never happened to me.

Later, Charlie buys his infamous Christmas tree out of sympathy for something authentic in the miasma of seasonal capitalism. I mean, sure…a 9 year-old who chooses authenticity (however decrepit) over simulacra would probably earn mockery from his fellow 9 year-olds.

The gang mocks him for his lack of football skills, his inability to cut holes in a sheet to make a Halloween ghost costume, his unlucky kite-flying, his everything, he questions human short-comings, can be a little soap-box-lectur-y, and is definitely a debby-downer. But isn’t Lucy the hateful one? Isn’t Sally the selfish one? Isn’t the “naturally curly hair” girl the one worthy of face-on mockery?

But Charlie’s sorta maladroit and he receives all the vitriol. What’s up with that? Why does everyone hate Charlie BrownIt all makes me think that, ultimately, within almost every human group, there’s that guy who ends up the target of being, well…that guy.

I don’t know how or why it happens, but there’s one person who’s the know-it-all, the naïf, the idiot, in every group I’ve ever joined as a child or as an adult. And that’s the person that none of us want to be. In order to avoid ever being that guy, people (especially children) dump their negativity upon this undeserving soul to keep the down-trodden trodden-upon.

I was desperately afraid of being mocked for, well, anything from the ages 7 to 43, er, I mean 23. To avoid perching on that lowest wrung, I’d manifest my superiority over those I saw as a titch below me. I wasn’t a bully, I wasn’t overtly mean, but I did find ways to cement my social superiority. . with dismissiveness at the lunch table, mockery behind-the-back, or snobbery face-to-face when these few people were being nice to me.

Ugh. I hate myself for having created these memories.

Would I have kicked Charlie Brown just to make sure I was a wrung or two above him? I’m not proud to say I probably would have.

Now, in an era of aggressive anti-bullying, I can’t see that my kids are yet preoccupied with social hierarchy. But they’re young, yet. I won’t be surprised if I sense a cultural domination game seeping into their lexicon.

Maybe I can justify more screen-time to foster discussion of “You’re right. Why does everyone hate Charlie Brown? Has he done anything wrong?”

Anything to turn that television back on and settle in with my bourbon and phone-staring time.

Christmas Misery

I was privileged to be in an exclusive screening of Julia Roberts’ latest movie, Ben is Back, thanks to @themomsnetwork, a network of moms mutually supporting each other in their entrepreneurial endeavors and motherhood. (Nope, not a sponsored post. I’m not influential. Just a shout-out.)

The movie was excellent, all about the trials of a mother dealing with an addict son and the many ways he lies and steals and abuses drugs. Julia turns in a star performance, though I admit I’m in awe of her very being. But I’m pretty sure I was able to see through my star-struckness to say it was a powerful performance.

But what the movie really made me think about was holidays and sadness.

Pivoting in this post, the movie reminded me of a particularly powerful moment of connection I shared with my mom within holiday melancholy.

During a visit home post-college, I was exhausted by my own frantic running around and lunching/drinking with old friends. Further, I was feeling down about my frustration with my career, place in life, etc. In a moment of calm, I said to my mom, “the older I get, the more the holidays just feel like a pain in the ass.”

She smirked in a way I’ve come to realize was aged wisdom, nodded and said, “Now you understand me just a bit more.”

Holidays were tough for my mom. She put her all into making them “perfect” for me. She didn’t practice mindfulness or yoga or remotely take a moment for herself. And she was burdened by losses like my father and grandparents. But she charged forward meeting holiday clichés and obligations – baking, visiting, Churching, primping, buying, wrapping, and all the things.

I could see she was at her wits’ end, but my mom was all about presenting to the world her Donna Reed best – always smiling for the public, hiding any hurt, living as the right people are supposed to live. She had healthy emotional breakdowns with her best friends, but I was taught we show happiness and control all the time.

And now I call bullshit on that. Because all any of us are really trying to do is get by as best we can. Especially at the holidays.

The holidays magnify all of our Martha Stewart freneticism. Social media feeds make me want to puke candy canes as I watch people out-Santa-fy each other with baking and decorating.

To be clear, I try to do a batch of Christmas cookies every year, but I struggle to enjoy the baking and be in the moment. I’m a little…I dunno. Distracted? Preoccupied with the clean-up? Policing the licking of spoons and stealing cookies.

And over all, with the holidays, I fret about still living my life, pursuing stuff AND buying presents we shouldn’t afford and hoping we’ve done enough to create magic for my kids.

And add to that the sense of loss that many of us (like me) feel, having lost parents and family and friends to death, I don’t always feel merry.

And I’m lucky to be in an age where I don’t feel like I have to pretend I’m sweating sweetness through the season.

And I have full sympathy for those further depressed by all the frivolity.

Julia’s (cuz we’re on a first-name basis) Ben is Back isn’t really about depression and holidays, but my takeaway was how the holidays are all that much more stressful for all of us.

And is it necessary? Must we force ourselves to feign cheer?

Well, if we didn’t have a change of seasons or emotional roller coasters and a corporate color palate change, well then seriously…how boring a world it would be.

The highs and the lows give us texture in our lives. I just hope all of us could try to avoid pretending to be so high when we all need to commiserate more often in our lows.

That’s what life’s about and what we’re all trying to do most of the time: just get by. It’s important that we do not feel alone.

The Reason for the Season

Though I loathe the culture war centered around “putting the ‘Christ’ back into ‘Christmas'”, I’m definitely one who wants my children to know the reason behind every season, or in most cases…holiday.

This applies most especially to holidays as “abstract” as Veteran’s Day. Yesterday my older kid jumped with joy as she celebrated having THREE DAYS OF MORNING TELEVISION this weekend. Uncharacteristically, I held my tongue so as not to deflate her joy. I’ll save the posturing about Veteran’s Day for the actual day.

I’m feeling particularly attached to Veteran’s Day, this year, because of the 100th anniversary of the WWI armistice. I’ve always been masochistically fascinated by WWI. It never fails to send a sobering chill down my spine to reflect on the first war in which men were able to massacre acres of men without catching sight of each other. The wide-scale use of machine guns, tanks, airplanes and trench warfare that wasted a generation all because of agreements between insecure, rich white men trying to keep their place in the upper-class mastering the universe.

Talk about toxic masculinity.

WWI was the end of an era (for the Western, caucasian paradigm, of course) in which impersonal savagery replaced, well…personal savagery.

A pall of sadness always lingers over WWI media (books, poems, movies, stories.) And so much changed for men in that time – so many poets and authors emerged from the battles in France scarred for life…with new-found expressionism. Seems to me, WWI created a generation of self-reflection, as opposed to WWII which created the emotionally stoic “Greatest Generation”. It wasn’t just a triumph of good vs evil, allies vs. axis. it was the destruction of humanity.

Yesterday, in France, French President Emmanuel Macron declared at the ceremony marking the end of WWI, “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. In saying ‘Our interests first, whatever happens to the others,’ you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: Its moral values.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Because nationalism (setting national gain over international citizenship) is what caused WWI and could easily cause another unthinkable world conflagration. This is what most scares me about Trump and what most scares me about my kids’ generation not having a grasp of history. I pray neither of my children ever has to endure a generational war (although let’s not forget that American forces are waging battles around the world, today).

So we have to teach our children the significance of world citizenship, collective good and personal sacrifice so that insecure, rich men don’t repeat history and take us down the path of self-destruction, again.

I don’t exactly know how to talk with my kids about such disturbing issues as massive loss of life in the name of freedom (and on behalf of European royals and leaders). But I’ll lecture my kids, tomorrow, and will embrace the eye rolls in the interest of world citizenship and patriotism. I’ll recite “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, even though it’ll mean nothing to my kids.

For now.

And I’ll keep doing so…to protect them.

So That’s Where We Are, Now

Welp, we’ve hit another funky milestone.

We’re trying on different pronouns in our household.

Before school started, my partner and I asked the big kid, “What would you like to say, this year? ‘He’ or ‘she’?”

Kiddo answered sheepishly, “She.”

Oh. Okay. So there we are.

An hour later, we were discussing my show, Head Over Heels,in which a trans actress plays a non-binary character. My older kid is officially obsessed with this gender-bending character (played by Peppermint, the drag queenfamous for her stellar turn on RuPaul’s Drag Raceas well as for being the first contestant who was outwardly trans beforecompeting on RuPaul.)

In the conversation with my kiddo, I had to backtrack withhersaying, “But wait. You know Peppermint is a trans woman playing a non-binary role?”

“Yeah! A ‘they’. Like me! I’m ‘they’!”

Oh. Okay. So there we are.

An hour later, I sat with her/theyand said, “Now, sweetie, do you want me to say something to your teachers about how you want to be addressed?”

“Daddy,” she/they said, “can we stop talking about this? I’ll handle it.”

Oh. Okay. So there we are.

The first day of school passed uneventfully.

On the second day, while walking back from school, I had both kids with me and inadvertently referred to she/they as ‘he’, at which point I turned to she/they, again, to ask, “Wait, honey, where are we, now? ‘She?’ ‘They?’ ‘He’?”

“Whatever,” she/they/he responded. “I’m flexible.”

Oh. Okay. So there we are.

The more time passes, the more I feel like I’m betraying her by ever calling her him. “Her” feels more right.

Which leads me to our milestone: we alerted the teachers via email about my kid’s fluid self-expression and let them know, “We’re just rolling with it. Hopefully you can too?”

There are times it’s cool to be flexible. And then I realize (as much as I’d like to live in a world without definition) that people need labels and definitions so we’re all speaking the same language.

Yesterday, my kid was benevolently outed by an old friend in class to one of the new friends. The old friend said, “But he’s a boy. He just likes to wear dresses.”

The new friend said, “But she talks like a girl and dresses like a girl.”

Which then led to a cavalcade of questions for the teachers, which freaked them out (understandably) because we were all just “going with it.”

Suddenly, my agenda became very clear.

I want my child to be proud of who she is. I want her to celebrate her differences and never feel defensive or shamed. I want her to be able to speak about who she is and inspire the truth in others.

I don’t think she needs to be locked in a box of hyper-definition. In fact, I don’t think my kid can really be defined, right now, except as gender-fluid. Nor need she be.

So my partner and I put our heads together and strategized how to let our precious first-born write her own narrative, be in charge of her story, and define herself for others.

The worst thing would be to pretendshe never was a boy. I don’t want her peers, teachers, friends or acquaintances to think she’s keeping secrets or making things up. We have old friends at school who know from whence we’ve come. There’s no reason to shun/deny/erase that part of her history.

What she isis what she’s choosing to be, right now; and we get to celebrate it and show how badass she is for choosing to be her.

Suddenly, in discussing this with her (which is taking time) I’m this over-aggressive tiger dad suffocating my child in inspirational sayings like “you’re all the morespecial for being so brave and special!, for choosing your own path which isn’t always clear or easy. But you’re doing it! That makes you so awesome!”

She is FULLY giving me the rolled eyes and begging me to “stop talking about this.”

Sorry, kiddo. Can’t stop; won’t stop. Because I’m doing my best to armor you for a tough world – and it’s tough for allof us. So you might as well suit up, now. Because you’re way ahead most of the rest of us in terms of knowing yourself and speaking your truth.

And I’m so proud of her for that.

So that’s where we are, now.

Battling the Ballet

My older son’s going through his ”I’m going to put on a dance show for you” phase.

I’m the asshole parent who immediately hounds him, “Okay, I’ll watch. BUT – I need to see a beginning, middle and end. We need a storyline, here, kiddo. Also? No more than three songs.”

Because Daddy’s got other stuff to do.

Oh, and performance standards.

No. I’m not exaggerating any of that. Way to take the fun out of everything, Dad. But these dance “recitals” are an unwatchable combination of a bad drag show and, well…I think I can stop there. Just bad drag.

Whenever we ask if he wants to take dance, he says, “Daddy, I’m already a great dancer.”

Yeah, no.

Until this year, we didn’t push it. No need to over-schedule in first grade.

But I heard about an excellent dance studio that gives free ballet lessons to boys. And because I’m a cheap SOB, I was all about that.

But then, approaching the audition time, I started to go down my normal cerebral rabbit hole of doubts and questions:

Wait! This could be a disaster! I’m forcing my kid to audition for something he doesn’t realize think he wants (yet) and he’s currently excited about potential ballet lessons, but he’s gonna get there and it’ll be all boys and then he’ll be like, “I don’t wantto dance with boys! I want to have a tutu and dance with the girls!”

And then I think, “ohmigod, what if we get this? Ballet is such a conformist culture that he will be forced to wear a white t-shirt and black sweat pants and then I’ll be forcing him to do something he doesn’t want to do because he doesn’t want to wear the clothing? And yet why does he need to conform in ballet? How archaic. This is ridiculous. Why can’t he wear a tutu? Of all the places, ballet should be super welcoming of gender fluidity. And yet, it’s not at all, is it?”

And then I think, “Shit, if we say, ‘yes, he’s a boy but he’s going to break your centuries-old tradition of the dress code” and what if they say, “Well, then if he’s a she you’re going to pay,”  and then I’ll be like, “Wait, what? Hell no!” and then I expose myself to be really just in it for the free lessons.”

But also? Why does it need to be so gendered? They recruit boys because what they need is the partner…a big kid who’ll be able to lift the smaller dancer.

And my kid will definitely be that one – the tall one. So regardless of whatever the hell he wears, he will still be the partner. So why the hell does it matter what he wears? Ugh. The ballet heritage of centuries could stand to change, for sure.

And YET…perhaps this is the time that my kid does notget to color outside the lines. Being able to conform, from time to time, and playing by someone else’s rules is a secret to life, as well. My kiddo’s lucky to express himself with unending unicorns and rainbows and creative movement every day of his life. Perhaps the rules, rigidity and tradition of classical ballet will be an enriching aspect of his already-wonderful life.

 

So he passed the auditions and got into the fancy ballet school. The audition consisted of lifting each leg to the side and then around to the front, then skipping across the studio.

And that was it.

And he got it. Like – the skipping andthe coveted spot in the dance studio.

This studio accepts fresh kids (boys) with zero experience because they can mold the tiny dancers.

Later, he declared that he didn’t want to take dance, anymore.

Eye roll.

My partner responded with the most classic of all reflexive parental arguments, “Do you realize how many kids would love to be in your shoes? You got into the this wonderful ballet school.”

“And I don’t even want it,” he said with impeccable comedic timing.

We have yet to discuss a dress code with him.

In retrospect, I think changing the ballet world is not a battle I feel like waging.

This is the time my kid shouldconform.

Wish me luck.