Tuesday, August 27, 2019

more validation

So, my parents are loving and kind. They've given us all of the financial support we could ever hope for.

But they're a little cray. And with a significant portion of their generation of Baby Boomers, they have a Boomer world view that isn't quite adapting to our changing culture and planet. They are easily susceptible to idiotic memes and youtube rabbit holes. I will confess, I've done more than a little handwringing about some of their politics (which, 1) are completely counter to tolerant and accepting people I grew up with and 2) completely counter to my current worldviews).

For much of my adult life my Dad has worried about talking about politics on the phone, convinced "they're listening to him" Who? The NSA? The CIA? Fuck if I know.  (The comedy in all of this is that we do have an invasive electronic web listening to us - but I think "they" could care less about our politics, and a whole lot about our purchasing power. Ever say something in your car and find a targeted ad for it on your facebook page? Ever think about Alexa and Amazon Echo? THAT's the spy state as it exists now).

But I digress.

Nibble spent a week with her grandparents.  And came home... well, puzzled and grappling and a more than a little frustrated with some of the things that came out of their mouths.

Much as I used to grapple with my grandparents in years past and my parents today.

Where I got really calm, is how maturely she handled them -a lot of eye rolling behind their backs but she stayed away from arguments.  "Mom, it makes no sense to argue with them. I actually tried to debate something they said and they just refused to listen to me and ignored the points I was making. I decided it was a waste of time and changed the subject. it was exhausting."

At nearly 11, her worldview is so on its way to formation just by being a person who lives on the planet. She happens to attend a majority black school in an economically divided city, and has her own experiences with navigating complicated race relations. She attends Jewish Sunday school and has immigrant and Muslim friends. She questions whether she believes in God and has personal fears about climate change along with opinions about how to address it.

While she was sharing some her stories about comments my parents made in her presence, the lightbulb went off.  She could unpack their love from some of their crazy. She could separate some of the politics they espoused that are 180 degrees from what she's been exposed to, and just shrug her shoulders.  Our nanny joked that I didn't have to do any "de-programming" because she's already an independent little person who chooses to read about 20 books a week in her spare time. Yes, she lives in this lefty household helmed by a former union organizer and a labor union healthcare policy analyst, and she could have an entire future "awakening" to lord knows what, should she head of to college.... but I know from watching her interact in spaces that she will do the *most* important thing: Listen.

The kids are alright.

Monday, August 26, 2019


I may have mentioned before, I come from a family that has this weird ideological opposition to therapy. Like it's going on your record for the rest of your life and somehow someone (the government? Schools? Your neighbors?) will use it against you.

Nibble has some anxiety issues (hey apple, meet the tree you fell from), and they're resulting in some behavior that's occasionally less than stellar.  My parents witnessed one of these outbursts.  Viking and I believe that maybe talking to a therapist would be helpful to her. We were quietly talking about it at my parents' house.

My dad called earlier today...

"You shouldn't take her to a therapist, that will go on her record,"

"Wait, WHA?????"

"It will be part of her medical record."

"I'm so confused.  What's wrong with talking to someone who's neutral about her emotions? If she's having problem with outbursts and getting angry, maybe talking to someone about coping mechanisms will help her."

"No, She shouldn't need that her parents should be able to help her."


"Dad, you DO know I saw a therapist for many years."

"When? Why?"

"Um, because eight of my babies died."

"Oh, that. Fine. Never mind.  You don't want to listen to me."

"No, you're making my point for me.  Your response is *exactly* why I had to seek therapy..."

"[now he's cutting me off] Yeah, we're terrible parents so you needed a therapist. You did talk to me about your pregnancies."

"[Deep breath] You're great parents.  But you couldn't help me cope when I wanted to rush under a table every time someone on TV called me a murderer.  Everytime I felt like my heart was racing out of my chest. And you couldn't say things that would make me feel better when I was in the depths of grief. So I saw a therapist.  And my only regret is that I didn't go sooner.  I needed to speak to someone to give me the tools to function. That doesn't make you bad parents.  Just like it doesn't make me or V bad parents because we aren't the best people to give Niblet the tools she needs to cope better when she's worked up. The whole point is that we're NOT therapists."

SIGH. that was exhausting. And there were parts of that interchange where my heart felt like it was racing out of my chest. Luckily I have a fucking champ of a therapist and I walked away from that conversation without any yelling and with my basic wits about me.

Monday, August 5, 2019


My American readers will understand what it feels like to wake up on the morning after another mass shooting feeling sort of immobilized. You put one foot in front of the other. If you're lucky enough to have children you pick them up (if they're demanding 18 month olds), or comb their hair (if they're 10 year olds who are auditioning for Rapunzel) and you keep on keeping on.  You shove in the fears that physically manifest in a lump in your throat. Keep going.  Focus.  Stare at them to ground yourself. But careful, because if you stare too long and the insane beauty that you have been charged with protecting, you may catch your breath and fall apart.

If you're an American you also get your short but necessary summer vacation. It's time to escape at Casa de Justonemore, this year we're headed back to Vermont and then Montreal. A night in NYC with my parents, a long weekend in Vermont with cousins and their kids who live on the side of a mountain in paradise. Four days in Canada to explore a beautiful city with functional public transit that's the closest my brood will get to Europe for a while. Then back to Vermont for a few days of blissful relaxing by a pond. Nibble will likely close out her road-trip with a few extra days in NYC with my parents.

We all anesthetize ourselves with something. I've done it with food and exercise. Others in my family use alcohol. For this year's trip I decided to take advantage of the kindness of our cousins and plop our family down in the middle of a mountain, as a bookend to exploring a place I used to roam with my grandparents every summer of my childhood.

We happen live in a beautiful tree-lined walkable neighborhood on the northern edge of a city wracked by poverty and gun violence. The City that I call home was only just kicked out of the news cycle because of El Paso and Dayton mass murders. But even in our upper middle class haven, the violence and desperation touches us.  One of my closest friends lost her closest friend to a murder by gun a few days ago. Public school will be starting soon. Nibble attends a fantastic, but underfunded neighborhood school. I work in a section of the city plagued by addiction right outside my office door. "They lean," Nibble says, as she visits me at work regularly. "You can tell who is high on drugs because of the leaning." The reality of living in urban America is stark, even when you can afford to escape it.

I wish everyone peace right now. And strength. These have traditionally been the wishes I have offered for all of my friends suffering from infertility and loss. But it's so clear that the very special brand of PTSD I've suffered isn't so special after all.