I was chatting with two other mothers, a few months after my first son was born, and the conversation shifted to a topic I’ve always found strange.
“Thomas is already engaged to Elizabeth,” one of the mothers joked. Her son, Thomas, was three, and the other woman’s daughter, Elizabeth, was just a few months younger. “They’ve been betrothed since birth.” They laughed together and I smiled awkwardly, the way I do when I’m feeling uncomfortable but don’t want to cause unnecessary conflict.
I have always found this habit – joking about babies or young children dating or flirting or marrying – weird and awkward. I’ve gotten a lot more uncomfortable with it since becoming a parent myself. It might have to do with not wanting to adultify children when they’re little, which I (unfortunately) see happening all over the place. Like when a mom at the library saw her toddler son smiling at me and asked him teasingly, “Are you flirting, Jacob?”
What is the follow up to this comment? I smiled awkwardly (yet again), and then I started thinking about my other concern, other than adultifying little kids. My other concern is about the assumptions we make about the sexual preferences of our kids from a very young age. I wondered if the Library Mom would have teased her son about flirting if I was a man. I don’t know this woman at all, so it’s impossible to guess. But my experience has been that people make these kinds of flirting jokes only in a male/female interaction, and to me that’s a sign that our society (or at least my neighborhood) is still a pretty heteronormative place. I don’t hear a lot of jokes about boy babies being betrothed to other boy babies, or about girl toddlers flirting with other girl toddlers.
There are so many assumptions that we make about the people our kids will grow up to be. We make assumptions about the things they’ll like and the things they’ll do. And when I say the assumptions WE make – I am including all the woke progressive people in the world as well.
Let’s take Thomas, for example, who is (jokingly) betrothed to Elizabeth. Let’s fast forward fifteen years to Thomas dating.
Why have we already decided that Thomas will be dating a female?
It’s 2019, and the world is more accepting of the LGBT community. The two mothers I mentioned in my opening story are both straight, and they have been welcoming and supportive of my same sex marriage and our adoption of two children. They are open-minded, welcoming, progressive, and loving.
But they are assuming that their children will be straight. And there’s a thirteen-year-old gay girl, ashamed and scared, inside of me that wants to cry when she realizes this.
One of the things that made being gay and coming out painful for me was that the world assumed I was straight. There was a default sexual preference, and it was straight; to be anything other than straight required me to “come out” of a closet, even if I hadn’t realized I was in a closet at all. Having to come out implies that there is a “norm” sexual preference and that you have to identify yourself as other if you don’t share that preference.
When I think about my two sons and their potential romantic lives, what I want is for them to never have to worry about “coming out.” They could be presumed straight, and then come out of the closet in adolescence or young adulthood, like I and many others did. But – should they have to? Why, in 2019, would we still be making assumptions about our children’s sexual preferences?
I don’t want to make any assumptions about my sons, but it’s a natural thing that we do. It’s human. We have to be extremely conscious and intentional if we want to not make assumptions about others. I catch myself caught up in it all the time when I meet an adult my age who is great with kids who doesn’t have any children of their own. I start wondering if they want kids, or if they’re hoping to grow their family. It takes intention and effort for me to remind myself that wanting to be a parent (a feeling that is intensely strong for me) is not something that every adult in the world feels.
It takes effort. It takes intention. It takes change.
We’re all learning and growing, as individuals, as families, as societies. During my experiences as an LGBT young adult, the world learned to accept, and to respect. The federal law for same sex marriage came into effect four months after our wedding day. The next step, in my opinion, is for us to move from accepting to not assuming.
Now, rewind back to my awkward smile after Thomas’s mother and Elizabeth’s mother were laughing about their children getting married someday. Remember how I often just smile awkwardly at these moments?
Well, that day, I sort of didn’t.
“What if your kids are gay?” I blurted out gracelessly.
I wish I could say that this conversation evolved into a courageous talk with me expressing my thoughts and feelings eloquently and the moms hearing it. But it didn’t. They kind of laughed and nodded, agreeing with me that this was possible. I didn’t say much else to follow up.
But I asked the question, and I asked it out loud. That’s big for an introvert and overthinker like me.
The main point of this post is that my sons, Edgar and Jonas, are not yet available for betrothal. They’re too young, and too unwilling to bathe, for any marriage arrangements to be made. They also haven’t decided yet if they want to get married, or who they’d like to be boyfriends or girlfriends with someday, if anyone. And my hope is that, rather than a big, significant coming out talk, what they experience is an ongoing, accepting, and loving conversation with their parents and their community about who and what they love, with nothing assumed and everything on the table.
I have an idea for switching things up this month, but I have no idea how effective it will be.
I’ve really liked my monthly writing goals posts, even though they haven’t always resulted in me accomplishing my goals. (Cue sad face emoji, please.) Even when the goals aren’t entirely accomplished, I feel like I get closer to my target when I set my intentions clearly at the beginning of the month.
There’s a blog I sometimes read written by Kelsey Wharton of The Girl Next Door podcast, and on it she writes a monthly post with a list of her goals. I want to try this out, to see if it helps me at all with any of my non-writing goals.
Here are my goals for May 2019:
Maintain my blogging schedule, every Tuesday and every Saturday. (Eventually, this will stop being a goal and just be a habit, but I slipped a little during April so want to keep it on this list for now!)
Exercise every day – yoga, running, or walking – no matter what. It can be five minutes long but it cannot be skipped!
NO BEDTIME CANDY. I often will snack on something chocolate right before bed or while I’m feeding Jonas during the night. I really want to stop this habit; I’d like to feel healthy and fit as the summer approaches, and right now I feel unhealthy and unfit.
I can’t think of any other goals right now; really, exercise and healthy eating is my main goal at the moment. But I’d like to use this as a place for,more mundane goals as well, like applying for passports for the family or starting our hunt for a new house. I’m guessing my monthly goals posts will continue to evolve.
Notice I haven’t included any fiction writing goals for May – but in June, I will be BACK IN BUSINESS and ready to write. I’m so excited for summertime – my first completely free summer in years. Yes, I’ll have two young kids to chase around – but that’s my choice, and my summer, and it’s going to be delightful.
It’s spring! The weather is beautiful. and it’s almost summertime. And the summer is when I’m going to get A LOT OF WRITING DONE NO MATTER WHAT.
My goals for this month are pretty basic. I’ve abandoned the hope of getting substantial novel writing done at this time. J.J. is sleeping way better, but until he’s sleeping through the night, early morning or late evening writing is nearly impossible because I’m exhausted. I do still have my afternoon nap writing time on the weekend days, but that’s not always a given (need to have both boys asleep at the same time!) and I often use those chunks of time for blogging. So for now, I’m just aiming to get myself in gear so that when summer arrives (or when the sleep situation improves), I am READY to get some good writing done.
Here are my goals for April 2019:
Maintain my blogging, posting every Tuesday and Saturday.
Continue reading Story Genius. (I’m giving up on finishing it! This is a “write as you go” kind of book.)
Get all of your novel writing transferred into Novlr. (More on that at some point!)
Continue a modified digital minimalist diet.
THINK about the novel as much as you can! Use your commute, and use voice memos. Plan things out and try to write at least 2,000 words this month.
So far, my monthly writing goals have been a great new ritual. Here’s hoping April brings more of the same!
This month, we’re taking a little detour. There will be writing goals, yes – but one of my writing goals seems like it’s not related to writing. BUT IT IS.
Let me explain.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I spend my down time. I’ve always been a person accustomed to ‘background noise’ – I half-watched a TV show while I was doing my homework in high school, I listened to music while I was writing papers in college, and I tune into a podcast or an audiobook while I’m doing the dishes now. I don’t like this about myself; I never have. Sometimes, I make an effort and I curb this habit; but I inevitably slip back into it when I’m tired or stressed or overwhelmed.
I checked a book out of the library recently. It’s called Deep Work and it’s by Cal Newport. The book focuses on what Newport calls ‘deep work’ – focused, distraction-free, high-quality, valuable working time. I didn’t read the book; nonfiction isn’t my favorite. But I was interested enough in the topic to check it out of the library, and then the best thing EVER happened: Tamara got interested in the book, and she read it cover to cover and told me all the tips she read about. WINNER! (I’m on the wait list at the library for Newport’s newest book, Digital Minimalism. I’m REALLY hoping that Tamara will read that one and summarize it for me, too!)
Here are the two main things Tamara shared with me:
We all need “solitude” – and I put this in quotes because Newport has a new-to-me definition for the word. Newport calls “solitude” time when we’re not getting any input from the outside world. It’s not about whether you have people around you; if you’re alone and listening to a podcast, you’re receiving input that you need to process. When you have solitude, you’re receiving no new input – you’re just processing input you’ve received at other times. Newport advocates that we need solitude, or down cycle time, so that we can process all the input we receive at other times.
One of the 4 main tips Newport suggests for how to incorporate deep work into your life is quitting social media. My understanding is that Newport recommends quitting everything for 30 days, and then adding things back in gradually if you feel they add some joy or meaning to your life. I LOVE THIS IDEA. As soon as Tamara told me about it, I decided I would start on March 1. So, for 30 days, no social media, and most of the apps on my phone will be deleted.
Now – how does all of this connect with my writing goals?
My theory is that when I cut away all this other stuff, I will have more mental energy and creative space for my writing. When I have little pockets of time – like my twenty minute commute, for example – I tend to fill the time with input, like a podcast. But I’m wondering – if I allow those little pockets of time to be about solitude, will it start benefiting me creatively? Will I be able spend that time thinking about characters, plot points, language?
I don’t know! But I’m going to find out.
Here are my goals for March 2019:
Maintain my blogging, posting every Tuesday and Saturday.
Finish reading Story Genius.
Follow a digital minimalist diet. Use the extra time for rest, solitude, and productively creative daydreaming.
Open up the document for the novel you’ve decided to write, and write at least 3 paragraphs, even if you know they’ll never be published.
I think this is an important thing for me to try, this digital minimalist diet – but I’m nervous! I use my phone a LOT – for background noise, to ease my anxiety, to keep track of my adulting responsibilities. AND I use it at bedtime; I usually fall asleep listening to a TV show or a podcast. (That might be the part that is hardest to give up!) I know I can do this, and I’m excited about the creative space that may open up in my life if I do this. But it’ll take work.
One of Edgar’s books is titled Shark Versus Train: Who Will Win? He loves it. It’s a series of contests between a shark and a train, and it asks who will win in a variety of different scenarios – a diving contest (shark), a burping contest (train), playing basketball (train), or a hot air balloon ride (shark). At the end of the book, it turns out that the shark and the train are actually toys, being pitted against each other by two little boys. I’ll be honest – it’s not always clear to me WHY one would win over the other, and I guess that makes sense, since it’s two little kids applying the logic. But it’s a cute story anyway.
This book keeps coming to my mind when I consider a debate that keeps popping up for me: now versus someday. When it comes to the things that need to get done in my life, will they happen now or someday? Which will win?
My word of the year is NOW. My 2019 goal is to stop putting things off for “when the boys are older” or “when I feel better.” I want to be able to achieve my goals even with limited time, energy, and resources, especially my creative goals.
However. However. HOWEVER.
If you’ve been reading my blog regularly, or have seen the dark circles under my eyes, or have had a disjointed conversation with me recently – then you know that I am exhausted and short on sleep and energy. Tamara and I have gotten into a better routine with the boys and sleep, but better doesn’t really mean awesome.
So it’s hard to do anything NOW. NOW is a blissfully happy time that is not conducive to productivity.
I keep telling myself, Write now! If you can write now, you can write anytime! But the reality is, even if I do keep myself writing throughout this crazy time, I’ll still have to wait for Someday to devote the REAL kind of time I want to devote to my craft.
It’s an interesting thing to think about – now versus someday. It reminds me of another interesting debate – acceptance versus striving. Do I accept myself and my life as they are, or do I strive to reach what I want to have, to do, and to be? In the rooms of recovery, we are all about acceptance, and I do believe that happiness begins with acceptance. So much of my unhappiness in life has stemmed from desperately wanting things to be different when just accepting things as they were could have brought me peace.
But – we don’t want to stop striving, do we? It’s good to have ambition, to have a vision or a goal and to work toward it. I can accept the fact that I’m 36 and haven’t published my novel yet, but I can also strive toward the goal of publishing it eventually.
So maybe the answer to the acceptance versus striving debate is that it’s all about balance. A little acceptance, balanced with a little striving, makes a happy and fulfilling life. And perhaps it’s the exact same answer for the related debate, now versus someday. If I balance doing as many things NOW as I can, while also knowing that some big things (like hard core writing time) may have to wait until the summer, then I can feel good about what I get done each day while also knowing that more is possible.
So neither will win – now and someday will tie. And they’ll agree to be friends and co-exist (somewhat) happily in the toy box until the next time they’re taken out to play by a couple of imaginative pre-schoolers, just like in Edgar’s book. And we’ll all live happily ever after, accepting the now gratefully and striving for the someday with grace.
I started off 2019 doing something a little different with playful + peaceful. I chose a theme to focus on in January. This was a very loose theme – I didn’t feel tied to it, but I did try to think of a few posts that related to this theme, and it helped me to brainstorm and to focus my writing all month long.
The theme for January was rhythm and routine. Even though I’m not quite done with all of my rhythm and routine posts, I’ve decided to announce my theme for February: kindness.
I thought of this during December 2018. I kept seeing Advent kindness calendars on Facebook, with a kind action for every day of December leading up to Christmas. I love this idea, and I think I’m going to try it out next year. I especially love the idea of involving Edgar and J.J. in this Kindness Advent as they get older.
I chose kindness for February because I like to think of Valentine’s Day as a holiday all about expressing love for the world around you. (I’m not so into it as a romantic holiday; I’ll eat the chocolates if Tamara gets me some, but they’re not required or missed if they don’t show up.)
Lately, it almost feels like life is too full and to busy to even think about all the things I want to do! My life is work, child care, and sleep. It’s hard enough having the energy to be patient and kind with the three humans I live with; do I have the ability, the time, to do kind things for acquaintances, for strangers?
Of course I do. Even if I can’t get it done, I’m at least going to give it a try. I think that sometimes just TRYING to be kind makes the world a little bit better.
I’m not sticking with any one kindness calendar; I’ve reviewed a few different ones, so that I’ll have lots of ideas to choose from.