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11/17/11

I think I'll be a clown

"I think I'll be a clown when I get grown," said Dill. "Yes, sir, a clown.... There ain't one thing in this world I can do about folks except laugh, so I'm gonna join the circus and laugh my head off." 

"You got it backwards, Dill," said Jem. "Clowns are sad, it's folks that laugh at them."

  "Well, I'm gonna be a new kind of clown. I'm gonna stand in the middle of the ring and laugh at the folks." ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird,

Oh, internet.

People frequently ask me how I'm feeling, which is nice and very social-normish. I always feel like I'm disappointing them though, because I'm five months pregnant, and have nary a horror story. I feel fine. I threw up a few times, (once while driving to work, which required some orchestration since I didn't want to teach covered in barf.) and my pants don't fit.

People run through the checklist of possible symptoms, almost hopeful I'll say yes. Heartburn? No. Cramps? No. Just wait, it's coming! Okay. I'll wait. *

I feel like I'm disappointing them, frankly.

But if they spent less time asking me about my body, and more time asking about my head, I'd have a textbook worth of symptoms.

Where is the chapter in What To Expect When You are Expecting that explains what happens when a student at your school dies, and you spend the week with heartbroken students, and then you watch them struggle through a long and painful funeral. And then you go back to school the next week, feeling like you teach in a mausoleum.

I don't know about the books would say, but I say I get angry. I get mental heartburn, because I don't understand the senselessness of the whole thing. My heart cramps up with rage because I don't get to feel grief like a parent or friend. My role is to watch everyone struggle,and hope that if the situation arises, I say and do the right thing.

I get mad because I can't protect my goofy, funny, lovable students from tragedy. All I get to do is teach them about themes, foils, and character archetypes, and it doesn't feel like enough.

Remember, students, in To Kill a Mockingbird when Jem finds out that Nathan Radley filled up the hole in the tree with cement, so that Boo couldn't leave Jem and Scout gifts anymore, and Jem cries, but doesn't know why.

We never learn why Nathan Radley is so unnecessarily cruel, bent on taking away any source of happiness for Boo. We never learn why sad things happen, and it makes me mad.

I feel impatient, with little social manipulations and power struggles, with the day to day human interactions where no one says what they really mean, or what they really think, and we all just dance around each other.

I don't feel like myself, these days.

Oh. (That isn't what people want to hear.)

Do  you get cramps?

No.

On Monday, during a fairly dry (by nature of the subject) discussion of The Federalist Papers one of my students started giggling uncontrollably. He couldn't stop. Like a hilarious virus, it spread, until everyone was shaking with quiet laughter and looking at me apologetically through happy tears.

I pretended to be very put-out. But secretly, I was happy not to be angry anymore. Happy to know that there is something (even if none of us knew what) to be laughing about. I hope I remember that, when this first little daughter of mine comes home hurt, or angry, or shattered because she doesn't feel quite like herself these days, and her friends think she's lost it.

There is still something to laugh about, I just don't know what, right now.







*Murphy's law says I will experience all of the above mentioned pregnancy ailments. Probably starting now.

11/7/11

MCB: emotional ranting until early April...and most assuredly beyond...

Can I do an "all call" to the internet asking for a bit of a break? Recently I got two "trigger" comments, comments that were not intended to be mean, but sort of made my overly sensitive soul hurt. One was on a very old post claiming that me/commenters on the blog didn't appreciate motherhood, especially SAHMhood.

I'm so tired of being told I don't like SAHMS. I like SAHMS. If you are a SAHM, odds are I like you. Good job. Is that what you want?

Said comment then proceeds to tell us all how it is much harder to be a SAHM than a working mom. (Do they have an acronym yet, the working moms?) Ask anyone, they say, it is way easier to go into work.

Because what the world needs now isn't love sweet love, but apparently yet another line drawn between women, another stupid gauntlet thrown on who has the hardest life. How about we all put our hands in a circle and agree that being a woman is hard sometimes. Having kids is hard, not having kids is hard. Working is hard, unemployment is hard, SAHMing is hard, and working moming it is hard. But it is all probably pretty wonderful, at times.

And aren't we so damn lucky that we even get to have this conversation, however belabored? That some of us are lucky enough to SAHM when we want to, and some of us are lucky enough to work and still be moms, if we want to. And really, I suppose the only truly hard thing is not having any choices at all. That. Is. The. Hardest.


The which-very-privileged-life-is-hardest argument exhausts me. So stop it. Stop saying things like "I decided my kids were more important than work" crap. Because the equation for working or not working isn't as simple as math equations where x is greater than y and kids equal x for some and work for others.
Likewise, stop trying to make SAHMhood seem like eternal drudgery for the spotless mind. It is insulting, smart people SAHM all the time. Your paycheck is not a qualitative reflection of your IQ, it is a reflection of a choice. Stop trying to make insulting a SAHM's intelligence happen. Like "fetch," it never will.

Why is the idea of "different strokes for different folks" so difficult to live by? It rhymes! Doesn't that make it easier to remember?

I want to know what exactly we gain from comments intended to belittle those who didn't make our same choice. Does it feel good to put the gold star on all by yourself?

I'm pregnant*, and I don't know if I'm going to SAHM or work, part time or full time. I expect I will do all of the above, at various times. Did you know you can work for my school district .78 time? or .625 time? Does that mean I'm only .22* of a mom? or .375? That I love this kid 3738494% less if I work? If I don't work does it mean I think Moms who do love their kids less than me? What if I confess that I want to keep working? What if I confess that I don't?

If I work, my kids will have a role model who shows them how wide the world is, how it is possible to balance the seemingly impossible (however imperfectly, at times.) If I don't work, my kids will have a role model who shows them how wide the world is, how it is possible to balance the seemingly impossible (still imperfectly.) The ratio of things balanced might be different- family, work, self-identity, but they all add up to the same thing: You have a choice.

My kids will know that feminism means choices. I like to joke** with my students that math is a pointless subject that they will never use in real life, because real life can't be determined by "less than" or "greater than," and especially by "no solution" Life isn't math, and parenthood isn't math. It is making the best choice for you and yours, and not leaving passive -aggressive comments on the internet that make pregnant women want to stab you with the pee-stick she promised never to display on the internet.

It probably isn't very fun, being fair and being kind, and giving people the benefit of the doubt, and you don't feel like you got a gold star at the end. But if x is greater than y, I'd say that x is not having a pee stick lodged in your sternum, and y is having that self-applied gold star because you claim to love your kids the mostest/ you're too smart to just parent.

Do that math.



*Yep. Not as awesome as Beyonce's announcement, but the hormones released writing this post should mean I get to avoid the "fake pregnancy" conspiracy thwarting my beloved B.

** Totally a joke! Math is important! Girls can do it just as well as boys, as it turns out! Hurray math! Can you use it to build me a time machine?