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Baring My Design Soul

I’m an actor. I’m accustomed to auditioning and repeatedly sharing whatever talent I have and often baring my soul for complete strangers. Nevertheless, presenting my design baby, my complete focus, my sudden passion for this diaper bag project was the most terrifying “audition” of my life. Sharing one’s art is never, ever easy. Lemme tell you more…

https://www.ecknox.com/blog/2018/4/23/chapter-7-baring-my-design-soul

Major Strides, Minor Paranoia

So it’s been a bit since I stopped to reflect on my family and wonderful trials of parenting.

Luckily, I haven’t had major dramas to sort out, all year. How magical is that?

But something cropped up, recently.

The other night, my older, gender-fluid kiddo went to bed seemingly without a care. Later, my partner poked his head in and kid crying in bed. Though I was in another room, my antennae snapped to. I knew something was up.

I poked my head in right as older peanut explained why he was crying to my partner.

As an avid reader of my blog, you might recall (ahem) that we had a bit of bathroom anxiety at the beginning of the year, which my kid admirably solved for himself. But unbeknownst to us, he’d been using the girls’ room for the past few months.

From what we were able to decipher through the 1stgrade sniffling, our kid peed in the bathroom and another girl (we’ll call her Anna) was “in” the bathroom. For some reason, that freaked my peanut out (for whatever reason…and perhaps ironically.)

Then, in the play yard directly after, Anna whispered something to a friend and was clearly talking about my kid, which bothered him.

Through tears he said, “And that’s why I don’t tell secrets. Because it hurts peoples’ feelings.”

We ran the gamut from “she probably wasn’t talk about you” to “you know boys can go in the girls’ bathroom and girls can go in the boys’ bathroom”.

Our kid seemingly bought it and placated us by saying “ok” and probably felt a tad better getting it off his chest.

But I wasn’t satisfied.

On our gender-fluid journey, I’ve fundamentally felt that honesty, openness and truth will be our biggest assets. I think we need to address how our kid is and what his truth is. That doesn’t mean boxing him into a category, but might just mean, “we aren’t sure, but we are supporting him to figure it out.”

And I think that needs to go for him, too. Because secrets don’t make friends, but addressing secrets might help dispel the secrets, too.

I snuck back in and had this conversation:

Hey, buddy. Can I talk with you a bit more?

He nodded ‘yes’.

Can I crawl up into your bunk and snuggle with you?

Yes.

I crawled up.

So, Bud, can you tell me more about your problem with Anna?

She was in the bathroom with me and then she told a secret about me.

And what do you think that secret was?

I can’t think of anything but bad things.

He started to cry, here. I bit my own lip.

What’s the worst thing it could be?

That she doesn’t like me.

Oh. Well, Buddy, that might happen. It’s not possible to think everyone in the world will like you. But let’s think about all the people who do like you.

At this point, I started to name people off. But then I stopped myself. We all know it doesn’t matter how many people do like you as a 1stgrader – or hell, a 42yo – it’s that one person who doesn’t that bothers the most. So I changed tack.

What else might she have said?

She might tell one teacher and then another teacher and then another teacher and then another…

Might tell a teacher what, exactly?

That a boy was in the girls’ bathroom.

Hm. Interesting. My kid is still identifying as a boy. Ok. Noted. And also – really? – this is what bothers you?

Honey, guess what? All the teachers already know who you are and which bathroom you prefer! And they all love you! Also? All your friends in your class love you for who you are and what you are. (Thank goodness, this is true. No problems in class, this year. They all seem to “get” him.)

We lay in silence for a little bit.Then he went on…

Also? She might be jealous.

Of what?

That she wasn’t at my school, last year.

Hm. Maybe you’re right. And then – spark.Also? She might just not understand you, entirely…

And here’s where I might have gone off the rails or have had a stroke of genius.

…Buddy? You’ve made some slightly complicated and confusing choices, this year. You like to wear dresses, and that’s awesome, but you know not every boy does that and sometimes it’s not what people are used to. And maybe Anna’s confused or even a little scared. And with your choices, you might have a little responsibility to teach people and be open to them so they will understand you.

This might be way over my kid’s head. I dunno. But you know? – I do think we underestimate our children’s intuition and nuanced understanding of social dynamics. I took it to another level.

And then I reverted to my normal verbal diahhrea and kept talking.

Also, Buddy? – remember that bullies are often people who are bucket-dippers (if you haven’t read “Have You Filled A Bucket, Today?”, you probably should. It illustrates beautifully for kids the notion of bullying and hurt feelings) and maybe Anna needs you to reach out and be her friend and let her know who and what you are. Maybe she needs you to fill her bucket because hers is empty and she’s trying to dip into your bucket to be happier?

I droned on.And finally I shut myself up.

Does this make sense, buddy?

I’m thirsty.

Wait, what?

I’m thirsty. Can you get me a water bottle?

After all that, my stroke of genius (or torture…burdening my 6yo with more social responsibility than anyone should handle) takes in my words and responds, “I’m thirsty.”

I’ll take that as a sign that he felt slightly less burdened.

 

So…I dunno. As ever with our ambiguous journey down gender identity, I know we aren’t in uncharted territory, but it feels that way for us. Have I done the right thing?  Anybody out there with more wisdom?

I feel good about our conversation. And in checking back in with my kiddo over the past couple of nights, he seems fine, too.

Sigh.

Update: three days later, my son said, Daddy! I said ‘hi’ to Anna, today.

Oh? And? How’d that go? Did she respond?

No.

But my kid was so proud for doing something that brave.

I gave him a cookie.

 

How are you? For reals?

Maybe we need a different kind of check-in?

I had this thought while reading an obituary for Anthony Bourdain. It seems everyone, including his mother, said, “He was the last person I’d expect to take his own life.”

I suppose we hear this all too often. Is it always the “least likely” to end their lives? Not particularly. I’m probably fortunate to count only one dear friend who took his own life. When I got that news, I wasn’t at all surprised; saddened, for sure, but not surprised.

This all makes me think of a moment after the death of my mother. Months after the funeral, a friend called to check in and said, “I don’t know – do you want to talk about your mom? Is it too depressing so long after the fact?
On the contrary, I was relieved to talk about her. Of course in the month after a family member’s death, that’s all anyone talks about with you. But soon thereafter, we Americans resort to our regularly-unhealthy relationship with death. We avoid it.

But it felt good to talk about my mom 5 months, 10 months, 1 year, or 5 years after her passing. It keeps her alive – not in a “I haven’t moved on with my life” kind of way, but in an appreciative form.

It’s healthy to address the reality of death. We can’t always hide from it or be protected from it. We need to consider it, accept it, even embrace it. Why hide from anxiety or things we can’t control?

And maybe when we let precious people unexpectedly slip through our fingers because “we never expected it”, means we need to address death more often? Perhaps when we’re able to get beyond small talk with friends, and when we’ve surpassed chit-chat about sports teams and summer vacations, included in our discussions of politics and art and God, maybe we need to strike at the heart of all matters and say “How areyou?” And implied in that italicized “are” is:

Are you OK?

Do you need help?

You won’t hurt yourself between now and the next time I see you, will you?…because you matter to me. Got it?
Maybe?

We are all far too preoccupied with material gain and working too hard and feeling guilt over not spending enough time with our kids. Life in 2018 is hard. So what point is there in keeping up appearances, anymore? It ain’t 1957. Aren’t profound relationships based on real connection? Sharing the worries and disappointments and stress of every day life? It’s more impactful to talk about our emotions and depression than our accomplishments. So much in life is fleeting and doesn’t matter. What does? Mental health. Without it, what have you?

How are you?

A Father’s Day Campaign to Follow

A few months ago, I attended a conference called “Dad 2.0”. I’d never attended a conference of any kind, before. It felt very grown-up.

Dad 2.0 is a community of dad bloggers who are mutually supportive in their endeavors to write compelling stories, occasionally strategize how to monetize blogs, and most important, network to nurture a mutually-supportive community.

I’ve been part of the group since I first began blogging, but I’m highly inactive.

However, I attended the “Dad 2.0” conference and was blown away by its woke-ness (in a good way). Here’s a community of guys who are absolutely 100% there fortheir children, no matter the kids’ gender, interests, abilities or attitudes. They’re a group of men proud to re-write the narrative on “dumb dad” clichés, being on the forefront of the #metoo movement (whether or not they have daughters or wives), and are emotionally available for each other and their families.

These guys are men for the ages and I was proud to meet so many inspirational writers.

I’ve since become slightly more voyeuristic on their Facebook page, knowing that there are so many great fathers who write in this community. I recently watched a thread about one guy complaining about another group of dads he’s a part of in which the men are victims, blaming their wives or girlfriends for all their troubles and generally thinking of their children as accessories. This particular dad blogger stated, “I love the Dad 2.0 community so much with its love, respect, and pride in fatherhood…not like fatherhood is a burden. Which it is (cuz kids are assholes), but isn’t.”

I was impressed.

Also, I had no idea there were other groups out there, especially ones that had fathers who were angry about being fathers. So much yet to be mined on the intrawebs.

Anywho.

Two of the gents I met at Dad 2.0 were Jeff Bogle (Out With the Kids) and Aaron Yavelberg (Sleeping on the Edge) two bloggers who’ve already taught me leagues about what it means to be a man and a dad in the short time that I’ve known them. They both write with inspiring frankness, humility and humor.

My company, E.C.Knox will run a Father’s Day Campaign until June 17th, during which we will feature the words and thoughts of many inspirational dads (not all of whom have used an E.C.Knox diaper bag!)

I hope you will click over to check out the words of wisdom and inspiration (and exasperation) being shared, there.

Slow Clap, Roseanne

I’ve never had a strong opinion about Roseanne Barr. I never watched her original show growing up. I sort of rolled my eyes at the reboot of her show, as with the other reboots currently on TV. Is there really a complete dearth of creative content? Cuz I have a few TV scripts I’d like to get out there. (Seriously.)

With her re-boot, last week, I paid passing attention to her pro-Trump views and the articles focused on her incoherent political views. To my understanding, she’s a Trump supporter mainly to save us from Pence. Fair enough. I see that logic.

(However, I think that while Pence is a political troglodyte who’d prefer a Christian equivalent of Sharia Law where women and men are communally separated – more or less – at LEAST he isn’t a complete lunatic who could potentially embroil us in an unintended nuclear war with….who-knows-which country.)

But I see what Roseanne means.

And then I watched the pilot of her show and I was gobsmacked. Roseanne is bringing shockingly relevant issues to her viewing public (which is largely not-coastal liberal “elitists”). Her nebulously-sexual daughter moving back in, her sight-gag sister with the “Nasty Woman” t-shirt, the struggle for affordable health care, her African-American granddaughter, and her gender-fluid grandson? My eyes bugged out to owl-eyed proportions.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree with Roseanne, now – that she’s bringing the discussion of the struggles of the middle class to primetime TV. She’s supposedly going to address the lives of the people who voted for Trump and that so shocked the rest of us who thought an abomination like Trump could never actually happen.

I also see that Roseanne spouts untruths and bigotry, that the Black granddaughter in the show is a quota-filler, and that Rosie is a base provocateur capable of saying any ridiculous thing to stay in the limelight (like so many.

But jobs, jobs, money, and jobs are the understandable preoccupation for the white working class voters who voted for Obama and then voted for Trump. Agree with it or not, the liberal coasts need to understand what’s going on in areas un-blessed by tech start-ups, app development and organic markets.

Democrats blew it in 2016. Yes, the election was absolutely hijacked by Russia and misinformation and Hilary won the popular vote. But none of that should have mattered. Hilary’s policies should have routed Trump’s bombast. We should have spoken the language of the people who most need governmental support and health care and education and job protection.

Roseanne just may be bringing that discussion to the fore; and that’s impressive as hell, in my view. Not to mention the fact that she’s doing this all the while “normalizing” the diversity of the 2018 American family – with adoption, sexual diversity and the freedom of self-expression given to children who don’t fit into conventional boxes of black/white, blue/pink, boy/girl, etc.

Fluidity is the name of Roseanne’s new game. Fluidity of politics, perspectives, sexuality and gender.

Her re-booted show is a Trojan Horse of Democratic identity politics in a Trump community of frustrated, disenchanted working people.

Slow clap, Roseanne, regardless if this is your intention, or not. Let’s make this discussion fruitful.