Archive | May, 2012

This Day and Age

25 May

Dear Ophelia,

Every once in a while when talking with your dad I will start a sentence with “If I die soon, you have to remember to…” This usually illicits an eyeroll or two from your dad who doesn’t have the same morbid hangups as I do but who also isn’t as much of a planner as I am. True, there’s not much potential for my early demise; I’m young, I eat well, exercise, look both ways when crossing the street and floss between my teeth (sometimes). But now that you are here what I leave behind feels that much more important so if in fact some unforeseen tragedy does happen to me I want a contingency plan in place. That’s why lately I’ve been thinking more critically about what is most pertinent that I write to you in this blog. What if this blog was all you had left of me to refer to as you grow up? What would I want you to know about the world around you, about the ideals I sought to instill in you and the person I hoped you would become.

I think it goes without saying that I have high hopes for you, dear daughter. Your name, Ophelia, means “helper” and from the time we chose it for you I knew you would be a true humanitarian, the kind of person that truly gives a damn about others. Don’t worry, I don’t expect you to join the Peace Corps or anything (although I’d be even prouder of you if you did) but I know that you will take very seriously the upholding of human dignity. That being said, I feel that I have some sad truths to tell you. As of today, our country is at a standstill because many people want to deny what has become a basic human right to millions of Americans. Right now, same-sex couples in most states cannot be legally married or enjoy any of the benefits that are given to married couples.

Ophelia, I still have not decided when I will let you read this blog but I truly hope that whenever you do read it for the first time, those last two sentences will no longer be true. It is sad to think that you were born at a time when so much ignorance and hate still abounded in a country which claims to be a land of freedom. But I do have faith that things will change and that you will grow up to see those changes take place around you. I hope that this also means you will be part of a generation that wholeheartedly embraces gay marriage and homophobia will quickly become a thing of the past.

One of the interesting things about writing this blog is that in many ways I don’t know the person to whom I’m writing it. True, I know you. I know your spirit. I know that you have parts of me and parts of your father. But what else? Who else will you be? What will be the details that make you a whole human being? I love that I am getting to find all of that out in small doses every single day. In general, I make very few promises because I’m only human and I’d hate to have to go back on my word. That and promises are special and should be used sparingly. But now I would like to make you the promise that I will never presume to know things about you which you have not told me or are not expressly obvious. Even that last bit I’m a little iffy about. What I mean to say is I will make it my job to get to know who you really are and I will do my damnedest not to assume that you are anything simply because I am that thing. I will not assume that you are straight or do obnoxious shit like ask if your little friend Billy on the playground is your boyfriend. I will not assume that you identify as a girl even though your anatomy says you are one. I will not push dolls/makeup/pink crap on you nor will I deny you the opportunity to play with “boy toys.” I will make it my duty to establish a relationship with you in which you feel comfortable and safe telling me intimate things about yourself but I will never demand that you divulge any information which you don’t want to tell me. I will respect your right to privacy but make it clear that whoever you are is not only okay with me, but thrills me.

If all goes well this will sound very familiar. Maybe you will tire of hearing it, but if it has been said so many times maybe you will be incapable of not believing it. Whatever you are, whoever you are, that’s the you I want to know.







The Flip Side

17 May

Dear Ophelia,

Parenthood is strange. I’m not talking about the delirium caused by sleep deprivation or the ever-varying color of your poop. No, what is strangest thing about parenthood is how I can feel on top of the world in the morning but by the time I put you to bed I feel like my spirit has been trampled by a thousand angry feet. Or the other way around. It is shocking to me that I can oscillate so steadily from elation to complete terror and back again without much even happening in the intervening hours. I’m either the best mother that ever walked the face of the planet because you having been giggling for hours straight or I’m the reproductive scum of the earth because I clipped your fingernail too short and now your baby finger is bleeding a teensy little bit. I am the Doctor Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde of motherhood.

Some days go like this: We wake up in the morning at almost exactly the same time and spend a good hour just making silly faces at each other and laughing together in bed. You look at me like I’m your personal savior, like the sun rises and sets in my eyes. It’s pretty much the biggest ego boost anyone could ask for. When your dad finally gets up to change your diaper (He made me a very generous diaper-changing offer while I was pregnant that I think he may regret now. He changes an inordinate amount of diapers for someone who works 50 hours a week outside the home) I just think to myself how lucky I am that I get to spend the whole day with my baby. My baby. Everything I do is suddenly fun. Grocery shopping doesn’t feel like a chore because I just babble to you the whole time and people come up and tell me how gorgeous you are, as if I haven’t noticed. I make mental lists of all the things I want to do with you when you’re old enough. Even if I’ve done it a thousand times when I get to do it with you, it will all feel new and exciting again. I see glimpses of what you might look like at 2, 5, 16…and I am just bursting with excitement to watch your life unfold and to be part of that unfolding. I can’t wait to introduce you to everything I love and watch you explore the world with unadulterated wonder. Those days are the best.

But other days look very different. Other days when you flash your perfect gummy smile at me, instead of feeling the usual ego boost, I think to myself, “This kid has way too much faith in me. I will inevitably screw this motherhood thing up. I will inevitably screw her up.” Sometimes when I have a half hour to myself I’ll take a bath and feel a sickening panic spread across my chest. It’s the realization that whatever happens to you for the rest of your life, for better or for worse, I am ultimately responsible for it. Suddenly the things my own mother went through, the tough choices she had to make and the guilt she expressed to me years later make a lot more sense. But most of all I feel fragmented. You came from my body and now for the rest of your life you will live outside of me, maybe even far away from me someday. It’s as if the tenderest parts of me have coalesced to form a separate person and now everything that you are vulnerable to, those parts of me are vulnerable to as well. It sounds weird, yes.  But it feels A LOT weirder.

I tell you all of this not to freak you out or make you think your presence has somehow damaged me. I tell you this because I want you to understand how fundamentally you have changed my life. I am split in two now. Even when you’re a grown woman I will still imagine you as my satellite, forever orbiting my consciousness. You can’t escape me and I can’t escape you. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Love always,