Guest Post-I, Too, Am Not the Babysitter.

I, too, am not the babysitter.

Most teenagers aspire to look older.  After all, there are advantages to looking older at that point in life.  Then, sometime in their 20s or 30s, many young adults begin to purposely reverse the signs of aging.  I have yet to reach that point.


Ageism is a form of discrimination I have encountered throughout most of my adult life.  From being asked what grade I was in by another teacher at a conference (she “apologized” by admitting to me that she thought I was one of the student volunteers), to being asked by a real estate agent if I was looking for a home for my mom and dad, I have lost track of the amount of times I have been treated with condescendence at what others perceive to be youth and inexperience.  Pregnancy and motherhood have not been the exception.

One of the most annoying things about looking 16 and pregnant (and being twice that age) is that strangers will say and do the rudest things.  I started noticing that along with the “Is this your first?” comment which many enceinte women get, I would also receive a not-so-discreet glance toward the ring finger on my left hand.  They wanted to make sure that I had not gotten myself into a situation of sorts, often adding, “Was this a surprise?”  I did not feel like going into detail about my personal life with an absolute stranger* (*more on this major topic later), so often I would reply “No, we waited until we were financially stable and had established careers until we tried”.  That bit of information would do one of a few things:  shut the person up, leave them dumbfounded, or prompt them to continue their interrogation.

I was a classroom teacher until my first son was born.  When I entered what I’ve termed my “permanent sabbatical”, I relished in wearing very relaxed attire.  My mommy wardrobe consists of graphic tees, jeans or cargo khakis, and a perpetual ponytail.  I remember when I took him to an event for a nonprofit organization for which I have volunteered for nearly a decade, that I engaged in conversation with a man who must have been around my age.  We spoke about how we each were involved or knew about said organization, and about 2 minutes into the conversation he asks me, “So, whose baby is this?”  When I told him that he was my son, his eyes became quite large, and he stammered, “Wow, you’re a mom! You’re so…I mean…you don’t look like you just had a baby…” Followed by the obligatory glance towards my left hand.

My oldest son looks nothing like me.  Although his skin has hints of my olive complexion, he was very light hair.  I speak to him exclusively in Spanish.  These factors, along with others’ assumptions of my perceived age, have presented quite a problem for me.

As a newly-stay-at-home mom, I ventured out to places where other moms (I thought) hung out.  As I sat on the edge of the sandbox at the park, narrating for my son, I’d have other moms ask me, in a tone much too elevated, enunciated, and slow, “How ooold isss heee?”  Once when I responded, a mom actually stated, “Oh, you speak English very well”.  What a strange thing to say to somebody who was born in this country, has a Master’s degree, and is a former English teacher.  As a result, I found myself going out of my way to make it clear to others that I was Alastair’s mum.  I began buying outfits for him in colors that matched pieces in my wardrobe, and we would go places dressed like twins.  Unfortunately, that didn’t do the trick.  At an outing, as a gentleman watched my mini-me play with his son, the first thing he says to me is “He’s really attached to you.  So, what’s the going rate for a babysitter these days?”  What an odd icebreaker.  My curt reply:  “I wouldn’t know, we’ve never had to hire one.”

When I was pregnant the second time around, one of the common follow-up questions to the obligatory, when, what kind of baby, etc. was, “So, was this planned?”  People can be so intrusive.

Now that I have the twins, outings with all three present strangers with opportunities to blurt out some of the strangest comments.  The ones that fish for whether they belong to me usually blatantly ask,  “Are they all yours?” Other folk try to be slick about their information-gathering, and will ask very random questions such as “So, are you in school?” or  “Do you do this full-time?”  Since my patience with the curiosity of others has waned with the increasing number of crying babies in my possession, I have now made it a point to make the other person feel very, very stupid in their assumption that I am my children’s nanny.  Though I have to say, I am getting more comments pertaining to twin parenting, such as questions regarding how many the doctor implanted (for the record, we did not do IVF), and less about my authenticity as their parent.  I guess maybe they think nobody in their right mind would take a job looking after 3 kids under the age of 3, unless they had a personal vested interest in their lives.

Back to when I only had one:  I remember a trip to a store, where the sales clerk asked me, in Spanish, how old the baby was.  I responded, and she followed with “Is he yours?”  I’m not sure how many other moms get asked that question, but I replied that he was indeed mine.  Only this time, I added, “Why do you ask?” and she stated that it was because she thought I was so young.  I told her I was 32.  She said he was so cute.  She then paired this with “He must look just like his father”.  So, basically she said my son was adorable and in the same breath that he looked nothing like me.  I replied that he actually looks just like my dad (which he does), which leads me to my next point…

Not every child has a father.  Mine don’t.  In fact, they have two moms.  Yep.  Three boys, 2 moms, a bird, and a dog.  That’s our family.  Carmen and I met while we were both educators.  She is 3 years older than me, and I often joke about our “significant” age difference.  Not too long after we started dating, strangers began to make an assumption about our relationship.  A girl at a makeup counter stated that I had a very young mom.  I told her that actually, my mom is in her 70s.  She seemed confused, as did I.  The man we hired to paint our brand-new home made the same assumption.  So did the acupuncturist Carmen went to go see a few weeks ago when she threw out her back from holding the twins.  What’s funny about that, though, is while I was filling out Carmen’s paperwork in the office, I thought I heard the acupuncturist ask me if I was her doctor (English is not her native language).  I told her that no, I’m not an M.D., but I do know quite a bit about medicine.  She looked confused.  I clarified that I was her spouse, and Carmen added that we’re the same age.  I then understood what she had originally said.

Perhaps the most infuriating case of this assumption for us was when we were expecting our first.  We enrolled in every possible pregnancy, breastfeeding, and childcare class available at our hospital.  Carmen and I, as I previously mentioned, are both educators and lifelong learners, and so we tend to sit at the very front and ask pertinent questions.  The instructor of our childcare class was talking about baby powder, and how it’s something that most parents no longer use.  She then said that it was “Something”, (and she asked Carmen to cover her ears), “That grandmothers tell you you should use”.  Our jaws dropped, we looked at each other, and Carmen whispered, “Oh, my God, does she think I’m your mother?”  For the first time ever, the anger really struck.  Did she think this because I look so young?  How young can I possibly look for people repeatedly to believe that my wife, who is older by only 3 years, could possibly be my mom?  Or was it because we’re both Hispanic, and this woman assumed that here I was, an unmarried teenager who had to have my mom accompany me because who knows where my baby’s daddy might be?  We were the only-same sex couple in the room.  Interestingly, also the only Hispanic pair.

When each of us has been alone with our oldest, we have encountered the nanny assumption.  Carmen has been asked, point-blank, how long she has looked after him.  Her response:  “Since birth.  I am his mother”.  When we’re together will all three boys, the assumptions run rampant.  Either I’m the babysitter or the auntie, or Carmen’s the grandmother or the “help” (when a woman exclaimed recently in reaction to our family that she could hardly manage having one child of her own, and I responded that it actually wasn’t too bad having three, she remarked ‘That’s because you have help’—and motioned to Carmen, who thankfully did not hear this comment!).  The alternate possibilities to our actual reality are seemingly endless in the minds of others!  Here’s how it usually happens: A stranger will ask if the youngest are twins, which leads to a question about their sex, which inevitably leads one of us to say that indeed all three are boys.  Then, the golden question:  Which one of you is the mother?  When we have responded that we both are, here are the reactions to this statement:

What do you mean?
Oh, that’s…nice (said in a confused manner)
<SILENCE> <stunned expression>
Well, I mean, which of you is the real mother?

This last question deeply irks us both.  Do they mean to ask who is the biological mother?  Or who carried them?  And most importantly, WHY DOES IT MATTER TO THEM?!?!  We are legally married.  We are both on their birth certificates.  End of story.

As a same-sex couple, the assumption that our children have a mom and a dad does not bother us too much, as that is the norm for most families.  It is the resulting questions once a person finds out that our kids have two moms that we find are not only personal and intrusive, but also downright impolite.  These questions range from who we used as our donor (that is the term we use exclusively, and we establish the term, especially when people ask if all three have the same dad), to how the child was conceived, etc.  We don’t make it a point to ask intrusive questions of other couples (Think: What position were you doing it in when you got knocked up?), so I’m not sure why people think it is acceptable to ask intimate questions about our family.

While we live in what’s considered a cosmopolitan metropolis, I am taken aback by the sheer ignorance and blatant disrespect I have received from others.  Anyone who has taken an intro to biology class certainly understands the essentials of genetics, and how a child is not always a mirror image of the parent.  So why do people assume?  Why do they think that because I have a young appearance that automatically I am a caretaker?  Is it because I speak a language in addition to English?  Or because my son is fairer than I am?  I’ll never know what goes through someone’s head and eventually makes it out of their mouths like a runaway train, but I know I have reached a point where I am now armed with an arsenal of responses, and can finally walk away without feeling humiliated and belittled as I once did.

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To All the People That Write Me Hate Mail

Thank you for entertaining me. I will never write you back privately, but I appreciate you 😉 So, here is a special post for you guys!

To the breastfeeding haters-

I have no idea why you’re writing me telling me you’re happy with your bottle feeding choice. That is great. I’m happy for you. I don’t want people to judge me for breastfeeding and I don’t want people to judge you. We’re on the same team.

To the people that claim to be anti-adoption-

Thank you for spending your time writing to someone who already adopted, giving them absolutely no useful advice, but just to vent and tell them how much you hate adoption. I hope it is therapeutic for you. (P.S. my online psychiatry fee is per word)

To the people who have their children in public school-

I would really like to know what I’ve said that gave you the impression that because I am planning on homeschooling… I think you are an “evil neglectful mother”??- hmmm, I have many more friends that have their kids in “regular” school, than are home-schooled, and I believe they are making the right choice for their child. Just like I feel like I am for mine. So please, stop…stop at least until my kids are 45, unmarried, and living as klingons. Then you can say, “I told you so.” Until then, please quiet yourself.

To all the racist people that write to me-

I have a particular finger I’d like to show you….

Dreadlock Update- Month 3

Mohave Tribe, Chief

We are going on month 3 of Samuel’s dreadlocks.

I don’t have any pictures to show you…but they started looking less and less like locs and more and more of the hair started coming out of them.

My friend who has dreadlocks told me that it is actually a good sign. They get worse before they get better.

I took it upon myself to retwist and backcomb all of them, and then apply locking gel. They starting taking form. Samuel couldn’t stop looking at himself in the mirror.

I was at the point this month of giving up, but I’m so glad we’re sticking with it. It takes time and I’m finally succumbing to that. I jut need to relax and let them do their thing.

Oh, but in my bout of desperation for dreadlock care in this awkward time,  I did come across some bizarre views of locs….

I found an extremely racist website where the writer actually said something along the lines of,  “white people shouldn’t wear their hair in dreadlocks because it is cultural theft.”  I refuse to give any traffic to their ridiculous website, so I won’t name where I found it.

First off, I think anyone complaining of “cultural appropriation” of hair are morons. It’s hair, people. No one gets the rights to it.

But, the comment I mentioned is just plain ignorant.It is one thing if you think the style looks better on certain texture-types of hair, but to think that the style is only Rastafarian is just really misinformed. Thousands of years before Haile Selassie was even born people (of every “race” imaginable) have been wearing their hair in locs. I guess you could argue the actual word “dreadlocks” is solely a Rastafarian word…but definitely not the hair style.

Honestly people….

What a Jerk….

I had a run-in with another rude mom at the park. I pushed the boys on the “baby swings” for probably 3 minutes, tops. It was hot out and I was slowing them down to get off when a rude mom came up loudly walking with her kids and said (for my benefit) to her daughter, “YOU CAN’T GO ON THOSE SWINGS, THERE ARE REALLY BIG BOYS ON THEM RIGHT NOW, THEY ARE WAY TOO BIG TO BE ON THEM!”

I shot her an “are you kidding me?” look and she just glared back. We were getting off of them as she was walking up, but I thought for a moment of staying on just to bug her. I didn’t, I don’t want to be that person.

So, we got off. I was sitting down and a woman and I were chatting. Turns out this woman was from the same area in Ghana I spent time in…AND she was rude mom’s nanny! I technically did nothing wrong but give her a funny look, so rude mom had no ammo against me as I chatted with her nanny for about an hour. The mom sat there and was mean and uncomfortable and wouldn’t share her toys with my boys. Funny enough, the daughter that rude lady was loudly telling that BOTH of my kids were way too big for the swing she wanted to put her in, was older than Aram….

Okay, so what is the deal with all the swing nazis at the park? Is it just my park? It’s not like we’re on them for very long…my kids get bored about 2 minutes into swinging. Aram isn’t really big enough for the big swing yet (he’s fallen off, I blame my uncoordinated genes for that) and right now Samuel wants to do all the same things as Aram, plus, the swing makes him feel secure. It’s none of that lady’s business where my kids go. Heck, if I wanted to go in the swing that is none of her business.

Luckily for us, an Australian man with his two kids came and played with us and he was talking about all the assholes at the park. Glad I’m not the only one that thinks it. I would switch parks, but it is my favorite layout, and the boys love it, too. Darn….guess we’re going to just have to get some thick skin and learn to really tune out people completely there.

Seriously, What is Up with Park Moms!!!???

I was so upset I posted this somewhere else earlier,  and decided I should share it on this blog….

So, I’ve been working on gentle discipline with Aram because he’s three and has been having issues not listening to me/testing me…. Like, when we go to the park and there is a small area he climbs into an area that I know dogs pee and poop in. I’ll tell him not to go in there and explain why.

So, we were at the park and Aram went into that specific area; I told him to please come out because dogs “tinkle” in there. To which he started to cry and ask me to pick him up. He is fully capable of getting himself out, and he does this as a way to keep control of the situation, and not allow me to discipline him. So, I told him he needed to come out himself (it was VERY easy to exit and he has no difficulties walking)-

Well, a woman out of nowhere came over (I was about 1/2 inch away from him, we were so close we could have rubbed noses) and picks him up and puts him down out of the area ( it was a split second move)…. Gives me a dirty look and walks away. I was too shocked and confused to be mad at that moment….I was just thinking, “why would someone do that?”  I was right there and it wasn’t a dangerous area (other kids play in there I just find it gross)… I overheard her saying referring to me as “the nanny” later, and the more I got to thinking, the more irritated I am at myself for not saying anything about not touching my child.

Even if I was the nanny it would give her no right to touch the child I am caring for….but I’m not, and it was so wrong of her to assume something like that. And the thing is he IS my child and I can’t believe someone would not only touch my child when I am next to him, but interfere with me teaching/disciplining him.

Ugh, I am feeling so guilty and such a bad mother for not doing anything about it. Plus, I feel violated.

I’ve also learned (before this, but it is worth noting now) that if I see a child at the park playing with someone that is clear as day looks totally opposite, speaks a different language than the person caring him/her, and the woman caring for the child looks post-menopausal- I will never assume the person is the nanny/caretaker/grandma, ever!

Homeschooling

So, I have a rant…..

Lately, when I meet other mothers at the park they try to make conversation and ask me if the boys are in school, and then what school they’ll be going to. I explain that they will be homeschooled, which immediately sparks some strange conversation.

If someone wants to ask me questions, that is great I don’t mind at all (people wonder about how to make sure they are on-track, college prep, getting into college…ect…). Lately, the main conversation I’ve been having with people they’ve been pushing me to put them into school (mostly if their kids go to the same school mine would be attending)….and it would be one thing if they are just trying to be friendly, but they seem generally annoyed that I wouldn’t put my children in “their” school. Then I’ve have a few say things like “Well, that is a lot of work- I’m sure you’ll change your mind” …seriously?

I have to say I’m a bit annoyed. They will go on and on until I finally have to say to them: 1. we travel A LOT and it wouldn’t be fair to the school or my children to put them into a school system like that. 2. I did independent study and it worked the best for me. I was able to finish most of my GE college credits in high school.

The thing is, I don’t think I should have to defend myself to strangers. I am all for education, whatever works for the family and the children. I just think trying to convince me what is best for my children when I’ve spoken to them for maybe five minutes is really rude. I couldn’t imagine trying to coerce someone who is putting their child in a conventional school to homeschool. That seems out-of-line to me.

VARIETY OF ADOPTIVE PARENTS

Here is my (completely unPC) categorization of international adoptive parents (potential adoptive parents, take note):

  • The person who thinks she is “saving” the child
  • The trendsetter (adopting because it is the “in” thing)
  • The hippie
  • The white woman who thinks she is a long oppressed minority and must educated the dumb white masses (watch out for these ones)
  • the older couple on their second round of kiddos (stick with these people)
  • The infertile couple (sad set of circumstances, but some of the best outcomes and adoption stories)
  • The church couple (I say this like I’m not one, but you’ll get what I mean)
  • the anti-religious (more like anti-christian)…. (ugh, those people are testy if you say (GASP!) God…. and P.S. I don’t believe in the Boogie Man, but if you want to you can use his name all you want and I won’t be offended…. so, I don’t get what their problem is…)
  • The person who will bite your head off if you say almost anything. for instance, “Is he yours” …offended. “Did you adopt?” offended. “I think we may want another” offended (yes, “another” is inappropriate in the adoption world, apparently)

as a Christian, hippie, kind of infertile (thank you vasectomy) couple- I think we encompass a lot of what I just listed, so we are definitely admitted to the weirdo club.

DON’T LET THIS MAN NEAR YOUR CHILDREN!

Brian sometimes takes the kids to the park so I can get things done around the house. When he goes by himself he finds himself without any parents to socialize with. Why? Everyone is afraid of him. Sure to some he may resemble a common criminal, but my goodness, he’s not like some creepers who come to the playground part of the park without any children. He has two.

He came home last week really down in the dumps when a lady frantically called her child over to her and left the park in a hurry- and it definitely was because she thought Brian was some sort of parolee.

The park he went to has two sides, and whenever Brian and the boys go to one side, everyone else goes to the other. I met them there once and noticed the phenomenon for myself. It’s weird, once they see that the mom doesn’t look like a meth head, they seem to relax a bit.

I personally like his look. I’m excited to see people’s reactions when we put some beads and braids in his goatee.

This Past Week as the Nanny

Here are some quotes from strangers to me:

…………………………………………………………………………………………

Checker at Whole Foods: Are you the nanny? (hey, at least he asked)

Me (after a long day): I wish….

…………………………………………………………………………………………

the boys were yelling “Jamie” after the lady at Starbucks called out my name for my drink

Man at Starbucks: Do they know you?

Me: I hope so, I’m their mom.

That man couldn’t stop laughing after that. He was funny…. That is what I would wonder. They were yelling Jamie, not Mommy.

…………………………………………………………………………………………

Lady at the park: Do you know where this little boy’s mom is? (pointing to Samuel and looking around a sea of white people)

Me: He’s with me

Lady: Oh, you’re watching him?

Me: Yes, he’s mine.

Lady: you’re the nanny?

Me: No, I’m his mom.

Lady: How old are you?

Me: 25

Lady: is your husband black?

Me: (very annoyed) No.

I didn’t offer any explanation at that point. That lady was rude

…………………………………………………………………………………………

So, that was my week. The only time I got annoyed was that last lady.