I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a parent of young children at a time of great uncertainty.

Near as I can tell, there are a few elements to be reckoned with.

1. Oh, how I yearn for clowns luring kids into the woods.

Has ANYONE ever looked down at their sleeping baby and thought, "Wow, I really timed this right. The next 90 years are guaranteed to be smooth sailing. There definitely will not be any unforeseen natural disasters, wars, famines, outbreaks of Ebola, or technological advances that give monkeys the power of human speech and a thirst for vengeance upon the inventors of tiny embroidered vests."

No. For every generation, the specter of doom takes a new form.

But honestly, my generation's doom-specter is kind of lazy. It's like, Russia? Again? Jeez. Change the record, doom-specter.


2. There's something to be said for not having time for feelings. 

I have a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. I do not have the luxury of not giving a fuck and seeing how this plays out. I do not have the luxury of falling spectacularly to pieces and then pulling myself together with highly theatrical Tweets about phoenixes (phoenices?) rising from the yadda yadda yadda.

Without feelings, the needs of the situation become... well, not clear, but certainly clearer.

Without feelings, I can act decisively to protect my children and our family, and our literal and metaphorical neighbors, who are far more at risk than we. (We live in the gay Muslim immigrant journalist district of Seattle.) (Not really.) (But if such a district existed, WE WOULD.) (And we would totally blend.)

And it's easier for me to just put my head down and power through, to punch back the billowing fear that rises like dough from a bowl.

Nope. Nope. Nope.

I don't have time for that.

My kids have to get to school and I have a community to serve.


3. How we try to teach young children to relate to each other = How we should all relate to each other.

Unfortunately, the tactics that often work in the short term are the same tactics that often knock out the bridge after you manage to get your cart across, SO TO SPEAK. But if it works, why not just do it already?

It can be really hard to make an argument for the harder, slower, more compromisey thing, especially when we are torn between two entities that are passionately dedicated not only to their own ideas, but also to the utter annihilation of the ideas of the other.

Unconvinced?

Hang out with my kids for an hour.

AN HOUR.

Real conversation at my house:

Chicken and Buster are doing that thing where they are each gripping the edge of the table, trying to sit in the same chair, each child trying to push his brother's butt off the single chair with his own butt, complete with that "Nnnnnghhh" pooping-grunt sound. There is an identical empty chair literally 4 inches from the only acceptable chair.

Chicken: I want to play toy store!

Buster: I want to play farm!

Me: Looks like we have a problem.

Chicken: Yeah.

Buster: Yeah!

Me: OK, what's the problem?

Chicken: Well, I want to use the table and chairs to play toy store, but Buster wants to use them to play farm.

Buster: YEAH.

Me: OK, so, that's the problem. Let's come up with a solution.

Chicken: I think the solution is Buster should go have a time-out.

Me: Ignoring him or making him go away is not a way to work together.

... (I pause while they continue to push each other's butts with their butts.)

Me: It looks like we need to get the chart.


 behold
"the chart"



Me: OK, so what would you like to try?

Chicken: I think we should put our plans together. Buster, what's your plan?

Buster: Well, I wanna sit here, and I wanna do farm, with the cow.

Me: OK, Chicken, what's your plan?

Chicken: My plan is to change Buster's plan.

Me: Telling someone else to change is not a way to work together.



Chicken: (pushes Buster off the chair)

Me: Kicking someone out of the game is not a way to work together.



Buster: (steals the chair and runs into the other room with it)

Me: Stealing the toy that you both want is not a way to work together.



Chicken: Mom, give him a cookie.

Buster: Cookie?

Me: Bribing him to go along with your plan is not a way to work together.

Chicken: (SIGH) Well, what IS a way to work together?



I'll let you know when us grown-ups figure it out, kid.


4. This is my job.

You might get annoyed when you overhear me at the grocery store, talking for much longer than a person oughta, when Buster says, "I want the girl hat," and points to the purple hat with sparkles. "What makes that a girl hat?" I'm just trying to teach them that the colors people like do not make them tough, weak, male, female, cool, lame.

You might roll your eyes when you see me putting back the Christmas board book with Aryan Mary and Swedish Joseph on the cover. You might think I'm smug and sanctimonious when I ask the bookseller if he or she knows of any books where Mary and Joseph actually look like people who would have been born in the Middle East. Which is, you know, Africa. I'm just trying to teach them that we don't own every story.

You might scoff when I tell you that I give Chicken a pep talk every day about how it is his job to be a good friend, and good friends don't let their friends hurt people, with their bodies or with their words. Good friends say "That's not okay." I'm just trying to teach them to stand up, especially to their friends.

You might wince when I tell my children that the most important part of getting money is giving away their money, when we talk about where they want to give their saved allowance dollars. Chicken's leaning toward toys for kids without houses. Buster's leaning toward dogs. I'm just trying to teach them that everyone is a neighbor.

You might think I'm hitting it a little too hard when I repeat, and repeat, and repeat, "If someone tells you to stop, you stop, the first time, every time, even if it's just a hug, even if you're only holding a hand."

You might think I'm putting on a show when I ask, "Can I have a hug?" and he responds, "Not right now," and I put my hands up in the air and say, "Okay. I respect your body."

You might think I'm no fun when I hear Buster say "Stop," through his giggles, while you're wrestling with him, when I come out of the kitchen to say, "Buster said stop. It's time to stop, right now."

You might think I'm playing right into his hands when Chicken slyly says, for the umpteenth time, "I think girls are sweeter than boys," and I ask him, for the umpteenth time "Why do you say that?" When I say, "I disagree. Girls are just as strong, fierce, and mad as boys. And boys are just as sweet, tender, and sensitive as girls." I know he's testing me to see if I'll hold the line. I know it's a script. And as long as he keeps asking me to talk about this, I will keep telling him that boys don't have to be salty, and girls don't have to be sweet.

You might think I take myself way too seriously.

You might think that I'm a joke, that I'm performing my parenting for you.

But I don't fucking care what you think.
If I had to rank the top 5 things that Chicken is most likely to bring up out of the blue, the list would go like this:

1. Candy
2. Tigers
3. Death
4. When will I have to go to the doctor again? And will there be shots? And will I have surgery?
5. The iPad

I'm accustomed to how casually and frequently my four-and-a-half-year-old asks about death. It is STANDARD breakfast chit-chat in our house.

It's not uncommon for children at his age begin to have what teachers and counselors kindly call Big Questions, the kinds of questions that empty parents' scotch bottles and bowels.

What's strange for Chicken isn't the volume of his curiosity; what's strange is that he doesn't know anyone or anything that has died. Oh, and also, the inartful grace and mercilessness of his prose.

He was chasing his brother around our dining room table after dinner a few months ago, giggling wildly. He stopped at my chair, looked up at me with a shining face, and panted, "Every! Day! Is a little! Bit closer! To dying!"

"That's true, baby," I said into my wine glass. He beamed at our dinner companions and took another lap.

Our friends stared.

"That's our Chicken," I said with a wry shake of my head as I emptied the bottle into my glass and excused myself to the bathroom.

I used to go to him with the tender gravity of a loving teacher, the kind who always ends up adopting the orphan at the end of the movie. But now I've developed a much more brisk, businesslike attitude about these fly-by existential questions.

1. Acknowledge the devastating bomb of his awareness of his own inescapable mortality. But, you know, breezily: "Yep!" "Nope!" "I dunno!" "Good question, kiddo!"
2. If pressed, place a gentle hand on his shoulder, smile at him, and say, "That's something that a lot of people think about, but it's not something we can control. Like the weather!"
3. If still pressed, pull him into lap, hug him tight, and remind him how old his grandparents are, with cartoonish expressions of shock and amazement at the gross tonnage of their years. Say, "Oh, we've got tons of time."

___
Tonight:

Me: You done brushing your teeth?

Chicken: Yep!

Me: OK, go hop into bed with Tygey-Tyg and I'll be right there to--

Ryan, whispering: He's already had three stories.

Me: -- tuck you in and kiss you good-night!

Ryan and I discreetly fist-bump.

Chicken: When are you going to die, Mommy?

Me: I dunno!

Chicken: Will it be after I'm already an old guy?

Me: Oh, yeah, definitely.

Chicken: Will it be when I'm 18?

Me: Oh, you'll be much older than that. Remember babe, this is something a lot of people think about, but we can't control it. Like the weath--

Chicken: -- So when I'm 20?

Me: Well... I'm 32, and I still have my Mommy and Daddy.

Chicken: Oh!

Me: And Granddaddy? He's 62, and he still has HIS Mommy and Daddy. SIXTY TWO!

Chicken: Wow!

Me: Yeah, so you might be a Granddaddy yourself before I even think about going.

Chicken: Okay.

Me: Oh, yeah. We've got TONS of--

Chicken: But where do you go when you die?

Me: Wow.

Chicken: Where?

Me: Well... nobody really knows.


___


I talked to my sister about loss today, a subject that she's precociously weary of. Still well shy of 40, she's buried two daughters that she picnics with on their birthday.

She said she doesn't believe in bad luck, that she believes there's a plan.

I said, I believe in bad luck. I believe in chaos.

She said, I guess I think of bad luck as Satan wandering aimlessly around the Earth.

I get an image of Satan as Jeremy Irons in a fedora and linen pants, strolling an open-air market in Italy, dropping rat pellets in the rice baskets as he asks the kerchief-clad farmer's wife "Dov'è il bagno?" Toppling crates of homemade wine in unlabeled, foggy, old bottles with one hand, as he takes a selfie with the other.

Her son asks a lot of questions about death, too. On the day he was born he'd outlived his sisters, and in our family we don't hide our girls. There's no reason we should.

Months ago my sister recommended a book called "The Next Place."

It's vague, she said, but comforting and peaceful. It doesn't ever say Heaven or anything, it might be nice for you and Ryan, since Ryan isn't religious.

I'll take a look at it, I said.

I meant to, but I wasn't sure if Chicken would be comforted by the book or haunted by it. After all, if someone took the time to write a book about The Next Place, that means...

Months later, just a couple of days ago, I found a copy of The Next Place for $2 at the used bookstore. Not sure, I bought it.

___


Me: Oh, yeah. We've got TONS of--

Chicken: But where do you go when you die?

Me: Wow.

Chicken: Where?

Me: Well... nobody really knows. But it's funny you should ask, I just bought this book that Aunt Sarah recommended...

I read him the book.

It is soothing in its abundance of abstract nouns - warmth, love, care, freedom, comfort. It is problematic (at least for Chicken) in its illustrations.

Chicken:
So
when you die
you turn into a bird and fly into a rainbow.

Me:
No.
I mean
maybe.
I don't know.
I've never done it.


Chicken:
So
when you die
you fly into the sun
and it spins you around.

Me:
No.
I mean
maybe...
Again.
Never done it personally.

I think when he asked me, "Where do you go when you die," and I responded, "You know, I've got a book about that," he was expecting me to return with a Lonely Planet Guide to the Afterlife, complete with taxicab recommendations, hotel rankings, and the best place in Heaven for paella.

But instead I came back with The Next Place: a perfect book for the child. And a head-scratcher for the 40-year-old cynic that lives in his brain, chewing a toothpick and squinting at news headlines wondering, "Sure, but what about the commensurate population growth? That number means nothing in a vacuum."



(Close to tears, he asks, in a voice that's the top of his range,
the voice you only use when you're trying not to cry)
But
how will I carry your love with me
into The Next Place
if I leave my mind and body behind
in my life?


He is both 4 and 40; he holds the candle up to the darkness with the arm of a man, but shrinks away from the immovable stone wall with the panic and denial of a boy.

He yearns for a simple, magical answer, and then he side-eyes it to death.

And that's what's so hard about this topic with him - if I answer with genuine uncertainty, because as an adult I know what's unknowable, then the child inside him continues to chew his lip, close to tears, unable to sleep for fear of waking up motherless.

For that child, my inability to answer the question IS an answer - my silence is a sentence. If I am vague, it's because the real answer is too terrible to say.

But on the other hand, if I simply answered, "Heaven," the man inside him would probably say... actually, I don't even have to guess, because I did end up saying Heaven tonight, and this is what happened:

Chicken: But what is The Next Place?

Me: Well, it's... it's Heaven.

Chicken: Heaven?

Me: Yes, it's the place your soul goes after you pass on from this place.

Chicken: So The Next Place, after life, is Heaven?

Me: Yes.

Chicken: But... I'm not sure I believe in Heaven.

Me: That's okay. A lot of people have questions about Heaven.

Chicken: But then what's The Next Place if it's not Heaven for people who have questions about Heaven? And where is your soul? Is it in your lungs? I can't see it.


___


After 45 minutes and repeated reminders that:

a) Ryan and I will happily talk to you about this any time you're thinking about death. This is an okay thing to think about and talk about

and

b) No but seriously, look how old your grandparents are. THEY ARE SO OLD. We've got time, kid,

I kissed him good-night and left the room to pour a drink and take a shower.

10 minutes later, I opened the door wide again. Our bedroom door is off, and it won't stay open. Gravity, after all, is both democratic and omniscient.

As soon as you pass through, the door begins to close again.

Chicken was already deeply asleep, his drool darkening my pillowcase.

I curled up in bed next to him and his eyes opened but did not focus. He whispered, "Can I keep you forever?"

"Yes," I answered, immediately, truthfully, in tears.

The bedroom door clicked closed.
Is anyone else searching for and finding meaning in everyday occurrences?

Is anyone else reading signs from the universe in the wet leaves on the ground?

Does anyone else need a laugh?


5 Moments From The Past Week That Have Fed Me

Water metaphors and shower poetry ahead.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.


1.

Chicken spilled a cup of water


and the puddle spread like a sinister algae bloom,
instantly enormous,
seeming to grow more and more as it raced, unhindered
to the edge of the table

but it did not spill.

We thought that was going to be really bad
and we were ready
but the force of surface tension
outmatched my personal sense of doom.

The water did not want to spill.



2.

I couldn't sleep for three nights
and then I met this voice in my head
that sounded reliable.
It spoke to me and said,
"In my nonmedical opinion
it is perfectly okay
and even a good idea
to drink too much
this week."


3.

I turned the hot handle on full
and it squeaked the way Hollywood sound editors think a shower knob should.

I looked around the room for a towel.
I looked in the closet for a towel.

How can it be possible
that every towel in this house is dirty?

I guess I put off laundry a day too long.

Instead I used all these hand towels,
once folded,
now folded-smashed
like cold enchiladas that need reheating.

They were comfortable in the back of the closet,
and not at all accustomed to this kind of work.

I dripped on the floor
and it took longer
and made me madder
but the hand towels worked.

It was not what the hand towels
thought they were made for
but it turns out
they did just fine.

so what I'm saying is
citizens are like hand towels
is what I'm saying


4.

Watch Apollo 13 with the idea that Gary Sinise is HRC.

Ken Mattingly, the original command module pilot on Apollo 13, was grounded only days before the mission because NASA found out he'd been exposed to the measles.

He must have been devastated, watching that ship blast off without him, after spending his whole life making decisions engineered to take him to the moon.

But because it did, he was here on the ground.

Because it did, he was there to guide it back home again.


5.

Buster and I went to the store.

At checkout, we saw a bald man with a notably tall forehead.

The man was wearing a beige turtleneck that was extra-bunchy.

Buster pointed to this man and said, "Who's that penis?"

"What?"

His finger remained outstretched.

"Who's that penis?"

I looked.

And then I ran.

Just when you started to think that joy was gone from this Earth.

Who's that penis?

Nailed it.


This afternoon I went to the movies.

I bought one ticket to Doctor Strange, and I went into the theater 15 minutes early with a copy of Vanity Fair.


not because
comics
but because
cumberbatch


As I walked in, I smelled a man sitting in the first row of the stadium seats - body odor, days of it, and bad breath. Homeless.

I picked the rearmost row of the first section of seats - I like to be close to the screen.

As I settled in with my magazine, I smelled him again. He'd moved down to my row, and was now sitting just two seats away from me. Oh boy.

As I flipped through my magazine, I saw him unzip his backpack and pull out a stack of plastic-wrapped magazines. That better not be porn.

He said, "Excuse me? Have you seen this movie yet?"

I pretended I hadn't heard him.

He asked me again, and I looked over at him. The plastic-wrapped magazines weren't porn. They were, of course, comic books.

I replied, "Nope, first time." It had, after all, opened today.

I gave him a quick, closed-mouth smile.

He said, "This is my second time!" And flashed a huge grin, a number of black gaps in his smile. I said "Cool," and returned to my magazine.

A few minutes passed. I wasn't reading my magazine. I was thinking about this man.

___

I stopped talking to him for two reasons: Because whenever strange men talk to me I am waiting for either a proposition or a sales pitch, and because he smelled bad.

In the silence I'd made for myself, I reviewed everything he'd said to me and everything he'd done, and all of those things went into one of two columns: Reasons To Avoid, and Reasons To Engage.

Reasons to Avoid:

He moved to my row after I'd already sat down.

He is sitting between me and the exit.

He smells bad.

He might be trying to sell those comic books.

He's a man.


Reasons to Engage:

He hasn't tried to talk to me once since that first attempt.

He accepted my shutdown and didn't press it.

He saw that I wanted to be left alone, and he left me.

He's sitting there flipping through the comics that he packed in his backpack, probably this morning, probably carried them around all day, and he's grinning.

He seems really excited to be here.

He probably wants to share this experience with somebody.

I'm somebody.

He's somebody.

___


I closed my magazine, turned to him, and asked, "So, are those Doctor Strange comics?"

They weren't. They were 20 other comics starring 20 other characters, the only one of which I'd ever heard of was The Punisher.

He told me all about them. He told me all about his collection. He asked me if I read comics. I said no.

He asked me if I'd seen the Marvel movies. I said I had seen a lot of them. We started talking about the movies.

We agreed that Avengers: Age of Ultron was really thought-provoking. We both loved Guardians of the Galaxy because the heroes were so scrappy and marginalized. That was his word, marginalized. When the lights went down, he leaned over the seat and whispered, "There's a Guardians 2 preview for this movie... you're gonna love it."

The light on the movie theater screen reflected in his glasses and I saw his lenses were strong; the air behind them swam. I saw his lenses were clean.

We watched the movie without talking. As soon as the end credits rolled, he looked over and flashed a thumbs-up. "So? What did you think? Wait, wait, wait, there's a middle credit scene and and end credit scene. They're AWESOME."

We watched those too.

I told him that if he liked Benedict Cumberbatch he should check out the BBC's Sherlock series with Martin Freeman. He said, "Martin Freeman? OH! He had a part in Captain America Civil War! I liked him, man."

We walked out of the theater together. He still smelled terrible, but I probably do too. I recently switched to organic deodorant (a fear-based choice after I learned something about PARABENS, but I have to make another fear-based choice back to Lady Speed Stick because I'm afraid that people will think I'm homeless, too, the way I smell by 3:00 every day.)

We got to the entrance of the theater and I stopped by the ticket booth. He stopped, too. "Are you walking out?"

I smiled. "Yeah, I am. But I don't really know you, so I'm not going to walk out to a parking lot with you. I mean... I've gotta be safe."

He smiled too, and smacked his forehead with an open hand. "Of course you gotta be safe. Well..." and he finished his thought about how you can't really trust the critics and I should really see Batman vs. Superman and Suicide Squad because the worlds were really well-rendered, and then he said, "It was really nice to meet you Katie."

"You too, Keith."

He walked off toward the bus station.

I waited a few minutes, then walked to my car.

___


The world is full of nervous people who need space to feel safe.

The world is full of nice people who want to connect.

The world is full of interesting people who stink.

Have a good weekend, everybody.
I've had a whole pot of french press and now I've given myself 30 minutes to write and publish a blog post before I go wake up Buster and pick up Chicken from school and then come home and bake banana bread because NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE!!!!!!!!!

And sometimes you just have to put your head down and go, bitch, go. That's the theme of this 30-minute post: Just hunker down and get it done.

Q: What's the secret to motivating yourself to take 2 kids to the grocery store in the pouring rain?

A: Be out of both fruit and milk (2 of the 3 food groups in my house, the third food group being of course cheese quesadillas). Have literally no other time that you can shop for food.

The secret of my motivation is "lack of options," and a kind of willed deafness to the voice in my head that says "Oh, no, Katie. This is going to suck."

You know that voice - it's the "Ew, honey, your life should be funner than this" voice.

It's the one that tells you to walk out when the dentist is running 8 minutes behind schedule, the one that says, "8 minutes! This is RIDICULOUS! You showed up ready for a cleaning and it's THEIR fault you have to go to Starbucks and Nordstrom Rack instead."

It's the voice that Juliet drowned out when she was like "O happy dagger, this is thy sheath..." and the voice was like "GIRL YOU ARE 15 YEARS OLD AND PARIS IS HELLA CUTE PUT DOWN THAT DAMN KNIFE," and she was like "Hummina hummina hummina hummina I'm not trying to heeeear youuuuuu because I know you're riiiiiight so I'm just gonna staaaaaaab me real quick!"

It's the voice that's like, "Don't do laundry. Watch Gone Girl," and then the other voice in your head, the one that's like the Put Your Head Down and Get Shit Done voice, says, "You can totally start a load of laundry and then get the clean laundry and fold it while you watch Gone Girl," and then the first voice comes back all slinky like, "Ooooooor you could just NOT... and watch Gone Girl. Oooh look... the couch has a fleecy blanket on it already..."

(PS - how many dollars you wanna bet me that when Ryan reads this blog post he does not understand the concept of the dueling voices, but that when my mom friends read this blog post they are like OBVIOUSLY there are dueling voices?)

As I pulled the car into a spot blessedly close to the entrance, the pouring rain more of a roar than a patter on the roof of my car, I actually felt the shadow of that voice fall across my mind.

Oh, no, Katie... this is going to...

I KNOW, okay? I know it's going to suck. But we have no bananas and no milk and they already had quesadillas for breakfast so...

I shut that voice down. I threw the car into park, twisted the keys out of the ignition, and turned around to my boys to seal my fate. "You guys want to get some yogurt raisins while we're in there?"

Once yogurt raisins were on the table, there was no way I could back out. We did it. On this day, we grocery shopped in the rain. And lived to tell the tale.



#victoriousbananas


I keep thinking that a day will come when I no longer congratulate myself for accomplishing the daily, necessary chores of a fully-functioning adult parent. I keep thinking that I'll wake up one morning without needing credit from the Internet for both doing the dishes AND THEN wiping out the sink.

But it's hard to ignore the feeling of triumph when I look down at that shining stainless steel. It's hard not to feel like a hero when I dash through the parking lot with rain curling my hair and dampening the hems of my jeans, just to get a bunch of bananas, a carton of milk. Oh, and yogurt raisins.

I've grown weary of the "Stay at Home Moms are Superheroes" cliche, because it's so common now that it reminds of me the line in the Incredibles when Elastagirl tells Dash that everyone is special, and he responds, "Which is another way of saying no one is."

If every mom is a hero, and every day she saves her own precious world, then what's so special about that?

Don't Hero Moms need people who aren't heroes to compare ourselves to, to feel stronger than? Don't we need an enemy or at least an ordinary schlub to outpace humbly in public, and with a swagger when we retell the tale to our husbands in the kitchen that night?

Dash's point is that is everyone is special then nobody really is, and I'm applying that concept to maternal heroism by asking, "if every mom is a hero, then is any mom a hero?"

The answer is yes, of course, yes - because we DO have the enemy, the ordinary schlub to outpace, to defeat. In fact, you've already met her, just a minute ago, just a few paragraphs ago.

She's that voice. That "Oh, no, Katie, this is going to suck" voice. SHE is the villain we have to overpower each time the sky opens up and the empty milk carton rattles in the fridge door and she unfurls in our heads and says, "Oh honey... look at that storm outside. You don't need to go right now..." even though yes, if you're going to have milk, you need to go RIGHT NOW. You actually need to go five minutes ago.

She's the siren who calls us to the couch when the kid's lunch needs to be packed. She's the cold-eyed devil on our shoulders whispering, "you don't have to brush his teeth every night..." And maybe she doesn't mean to destroy us; maybe her intention is just to give us a break. But the path of a champion is steep and lonely, and there are some parts of parenting that are just going to suck. And still have to be done. Every. Single. Day.

The heroic part is the choice we make to clean the sink even though nobody is coming over. The heroic part is the work we do that will never be recognized unless we brag about it, which, okay, we do sometimes. The heroic part is how many times a day we actively choose to make our lives harder and our selves more depleted, how often we willingly draw from our reserves even when the warning lights start to blink. The heroic part is when we sit, dripping, in the driver's seat, not having left the driveway yet, and the boys could go right back inside and watch a Dora and you could just curl up with them, and zone out for awhile, but instead you start the car.

It is hard to describe the paradox of how silly I feel when I write about buying milk in such grand terms, and how true it feels to write about buying milk in such grand terms.

But either way, it's 2:05 pm, which means my 30 minutes are up, and it's time for me to wake up Buster, load him into the car, pick up Chicken from school, come home again and bake banana bread. It's time for me to put my head down and go, bitch, go.

this picture is the part
at the end of the credits for the avengers movie
that like gives a teaser
for the next movie
so
just like imagine ultron's voice saying
"oh but Katie
you don't have to do the dishes
right
now..."
Me: Hey mom! We got your package...

Mom: Oh good! Did you see the Halloween plates? Were they too spooky?

Me: No, no, they were perfect. The kids love them. And thank you so much for the cards.

Mom: Of course, honey.

Me: And the books...

Mom: That Daniel Tiger Halloween book was your sister's idea.

Me: Chicken already loves it, of course. But... do you know the one he really can't put down?

Mom: Which one?

Me: No More Ee-Ooohr?



Mom: Which one is that?

Me: It's the... uh... the one about the donkey?

Mom: Oh isn't that funny? Your Aunt found that at the Goodwill! I thought the illustrations were so great.

Me: Yeah, no, the pictures are cool.

(beat)

Me: Um... did you read it?

Mom: No, why?



seriously
just
just try to read that line
aloud
to your child


making children's books
great
again





It is one of those nights when I sat down to write and had nothing to say. I put my fingers on the keys and the words that came to mind were

Wait, did you clean out the car?

So in the spirit of WRITING, rather than editing, I'll tell you about cleaning out my car, or, as I have come to fondly call it, purging the crapwagon.

I joke that it looks like I live in my car. But a lot of people make that joke.

You know what just dills my pickle?

You know what just tickles my giblets?

When I climb into some leather-smelling sedan completely devoid of dust on the dashboard, and my friend pulls a single copy of The New Yorker off the passenger seat and she's like, "Oh my gosh I'm sorry my car is just DISGUSTING... I basically live in here," and then she gets all flustered because a New Yorker subscription postcard fluttered onto the cup holders and she's like "Aaaaah I'm sorry! I'm such a mess!"

And then I sneak a peek in the cup holder after she grabs the postcard, and the cup holder doesn't even have a sticky paste in the bottom of it or even a single penny cemented in the sticky paste so Abraham Lincoln looks like Han Solo trapped in carbonite, like screaming HELP ME from the bottom of the cup holder. And there's not even any sand in there, or even a single scone crumb.

Her cup holder looks like a cup holder in a brain surgery theater. Like it might have been boiled recently and then buffed dry with a sunglasses cleaning cloth.

But she says, "It looks like I LIVE in here!" And I smile and laugh and keep up my end of the script: "Are you kidding? Your car is spotless! You should see mine!" I keep it light, but as I stretch my legs out into the vast emptiness of the passenger seat leg area, I think, you will never, ever ride in my car.

When I say that it looks like I live in my car, I mean that there's a toothbrush in the cup holder and we've run out of TP in the backseat. I mean that my car carries an assortment of footwear appropriate for any activity in any season, swimming in the object stew through which my children must wade daily as they climb in and out of their car seats.

Tonight as I cleaned out the car I pulled out three pairs of flip flops in varying sizes. In Chicken's size, I also pulled out a right-foot rain boot, a right-foot hiking boot, a right-foot light-up sneaker, and one of those muscular sandals that river guides wear. Also right foot. (He likes to take off his right shoe so he can roll his window down with his toes. Because he is living his best life.)

When I say that it looks like I live in my car, I mean that I once was inspired by a Real Simple magazine in line at the grocery store and attempted to install organizational objects to "tame the chaos and clutter" in my car.

When I say that it looks like I live in my car, I mean that my car has a storage system that has already completed its storage system life cycle: Adopted, implemented, and immediately abandoned.

There are like 2 pieces of mail in the designated box for mail, and a single Larabar wrapper in the "mobile trash bin." Everything else is in the aforementioned object stew, chiropractic invoices crusted with toddler boot prints, unopened thank-you notes as browned and wrinkled as the top of a pumpkin pie.

When I say that it looks like I live in my car, I mean that I have a tortilla warmer in my car. Not, like, out, because how often do you really need the tortilla warmer? And our counter space is pretty limited. But yeah, we have one in storage. On hand. For when we need it. In the car.

When I say that it looks like I live in my car, I mean that the dirty laundry to clean laundry ratio in my car (when I am sitting in the car wearing clean clothes) is consistent with the dirty laundry to clean laundry ratio in my house (when I am sitting in the house wearing clean clothes.)

I'm saying that, in my car, I put my coffee cup on top of a stack of mail that I will NEVER EVER READ but I also feel like maybe I'll have time to read someday and there might be something in there that's super useful. I'm talking about 6 months of Consumer Reports. I'm talking Costco Connection.

I'm saying that I'm thankful every single day that I climb into my car and do not find it infested with ants, mice, or the portly-bordering-on-spherical squirrels who roll around the picnic grounds at Green Lake. There's plenty to sustain the vermin on the floor mats alone - peanut butter crackers, raisins, dried out hunks of cheese browning at the corners, whole, leathery tortillas that were once pillowy warm. #callbacktothetortillawarmer #didntnailit

I'm saying that there have been ill-advised attempts to decorate the car with festive seasonal touches and the Christmas light window clings didn't come down until March. And when I say "come down" I mean "fall down into the object soup and immediately become encrusted with long, spidery head hairs still brandishing their white nubby follicles, sand, and cracker crumbs."

It's a natural phenomenon, actually, the velocity with which my car hurtles toward entropy after I attempt to restore order.

I wake up on the day after I take three bags of trash and six bags of clothes, books, toys, "art" (and I need to have a chat with Teacher June about our definition of "art" because that piece of construction paper with a single blue marker dot in the corner? You don't need to put that in our cubby, Miss June. You can just make it disappear. Because another unbelievable property of "the car" is that once an object crosses the threshold of the car, it becomes a priceless treasure slash The One Ring and cannot be discarded or destroyed without first undertaking to smuggle it unseen beneath the great lidless eye of Lord Chicken, and I'm not a Hobbit except at elevensies and ain't nobody got time for that rigamarole just to throw away a single blue dot "drawing" that Chicken probably didn't even do on purpose and gave no fucks about before it came into the car.) I wake up that morning and drive thru Starbucks and buy a single coffee and I blink and the CAR IS FULL OF CRAP AGAIN.

I have to make the choice, daily, of whether to go inside and take off my shoes and watch Transparent, or clean out all the shit in the car before I do that other fun good better stuff.

I think you know what choice I make. At least, Abraham Lincoln does.



Okay.

That's all I have to say about cleaning out the car.

Good night.
This poem is explicit. 

Anyone who does not want to read about explicit, threatening scenarios should not read it. 

Mom and Dad, I'm talking to you.

okay



Let me just ask you this.

Have you ever been touched
without your permission?

By your arm?
By a friendly grandpa type?
By your back?
By a Greenpeace volunteer?
(They don't touch everyone, you know.
They don't touch my husband.)

Have you ever looked
across a coffee shop
and met the eyes
of a panting man
watching you?

Have you ever had to weigh
that if you turned and walked away
he'd keep going,
anyway?

Have you ever stood your ground
because
fuck you
because
look at my face?
Because you wanted to be able
to see him?

Have you ever wished for a coat?

Have you ever hated yourself
for the clothes you chose?
Have you ever thought
what did you expect would happen?

Have you ever laughed,
and kissed a man's cheek
when he appeared out of nowhere
three blocks from home
and said
"Let me walk you,
you're beautiful,
let me walk you.
Are you close?
I'll walk you.
What's your name."

Have you ever laughed and refused,
laughed and refused,
laughed as he walked with you anyway
laughed as you thought
where can I go
laughed until you let him spank you,
lightly,
good-bye?

Have you ever been saved
by your willingness
to bend over?

Have you ever realized
how often laughing works?

Have you ever laughed
and understood immediately
that this one does not like
to be laughed at?

Have you ever been saved?

Have you ever had to thank a stranger
for pulling you away
from a stranger
when he saw your blank face
the picture of animal panic
when your back was on the wall?

Have you ever hated the man who helped you
because it was just
just
just
humiliating
that you had a hero?
To thank?
For what?
Nothing happened.
You just
got pushed into a wall
for a minute
or two.

Have you ever
hugged someone tight
like a boxer does?
Have you ever pressed yourself against
the person who wants
to take you?
Have you ever waited out the clock?

Have you ever been saved
when a stranger realized
that someone else already had dibs
on you?

Have you ever heard
one man
apologize
to another
for nearly taking you?

Because he didn't realize
you
were
his?

Sorry, man.
I didn't know
she was yours.

Have you ever tried to speak
after being saved
like that?

Have you ever found your jaw
tight as a tomb
after being saved
like that?

Have you ever seen them perfect their signals
like a pitcher and a catcher?
Have you ever seen them lob the ball
with underhanded grace?

Have you ever been
the ball?

"Aren't you happy to see my friend?
Don't you want to say hello?
Show him how you say hello.
She's the best."

Have you ever had the sense
that there was already a plan
for your evening?

And that it would be best
to get okay with it?

Have you ever caught a glimpse of a wink
a nod
over your head
when you smiled
and hugged the man
you were supposed to hug?

When he hugged you high
and low
testing all the edges of your  soft,
round parts
just to see
if you had
a line?

Have you ever played along?

Have you ever smiled
at someone who scares you?

Have you ever
gone quiet
and chosen to permit
what was going to happen?

Have you ever pretended
you love to give blow jobs
because you wanted to leave
unfucked?

Have you ever let your boyfriend
take pictures of you
and found out
years later
that everyone
(everyone)
saw them?

Have you ever been surprised
like that?
Years later,
engaged,
catching up
with an old friend?

Have you ever been
so unsurprised?

Have you ever thought
well what did you think would happen?

Have you ever gone blank?
Have you ever thrown little pebbles
at the advancing tank?

Wait
Wait
Wait wait wait wait wait 
WAIT

Have you ever been told
to consent?

Have you ever gone toe-to-toe
on a summer afternoon
at a cafe table full of crosstalking smart young people like you
people you've just met and like,
making some pretty good points
actually,
making everyone laugh
until the man you were arguing with
told you to shut up and put your tits away?

Have you ever shut up
and covered
what wasn't uncovered?
Have you ever taken a slap
like that?
Quietly?

Have you ever been saved
from that silent table?

Have you ever had to thank
the person who saved you?

A person whose friends they were?
A person you've loved since childhood
who saved you?

Have you ever said thank you?

Or do you just
get
too
mad?
Long time no see y'all! 

I promise I haven't been on a rage bender, pounding Fireball and seeking out hipsters with suspenders that need snapping. I've been busy - back to school for Chicken means a massive schedule transition for our whole family and damn if I haven't had to spend at least 50% of my weekly blog time pre-washing and cutting fruit for grab and go snacks. THESE KIDS EAT A LOT OF FRUIT OKAY.

But now, without further ado, a blog post.


5 Moments in a Monday Afternoon


1.

I asked him if he needed to pee before we got in the car. Traffic's heavy, I said. It might take longer than usual to get where we're going, I said. We won't have time to stop for a bathroom once we're on the road, I said.

Nah, he said. I'm good.

Everyone in the world saw the punchline coming, including me, but I was the person about to get punched, the person whose hope transcends her trust in physics.

Sure enough, 5 minutes in the car, brake lights ahead as far as the eye could see, Chicken whispered, "I have to go potty."

"No, you don't." I said it matter-of-factly, in the hopes that he was testing my mettle rather than legitimately about to piss in the car seat.

"I REALLY HAVE TO GO POTTY." His voice was a squeak, so I knew he was really clenching.

Luckily, we happened to be only 2 blocks from our house, which we had to pass to get on the highway. I pulled into the driveway, left the motor running, dashed around to Chicken's door, unclipped him, pointed to the bushes in the front yard, and said, "OK, go."

He looked at me, his eyes full of wonder. Front yard peeing is like kettle corn for breakfast - strictly a Daddy activity. "GO," I said again.

He scampered out of the car and into the bushes, where he lay his cheek against the splintery fence and sighed the sigh of a cat who has found the spot in the sun. He stood. I stood. The car ran. Buster ate popcorn. "Almost done?" I asked.

He smiled vacantly at me. You're not peeing at all, are you? I narrowed my eyes and took one step toward him to clip him back in - we were definitely going to be late to his 4 o'clock now - and he scampered out of the bushes waving a flat hand at me calling, "Wait wait wait wait! I've got the perfect spot!"

Down the gravel path toward the backyard he ran, and when he got to the fence he stopped and pulled down his pants again. "FINE," I called, "GREAT SPOT, CHICKEN. GO." I stood there and watched him.

His thin voice called back, "I need privacy Mommy. I'm all blocked up." I turned around, counted to four, and turned back. He was peeing on the gas meter.

"OK, great pee, hop in the car." He put his hands on his pants, but instead of pulling them up, he yanked them down to his knees. What in the name of Sir Ian McKellen...

"Mommy, I have to poop!" He squatted in the gravel.

"WAIT!" I screamed. Peeing in gravel is one thing; mother nature will take care of the clean up on that one for me. But taking a dump in a chunky pebble walkway was QUITE another proposition. He was already grunting, and I looked around frantically for a receptacle. PERFECT. A plastic bucket full of rainwater and pinecones. I dumped it out and put it under his butt.

"OK, go for it."

It should be said at this point that the car was still running, in the driveway, my door and the rear passenger-side door standing open, Fox News Radio on blast so I could broaden my perspective as I watched my son take a dump in a bucket, 10 yards from a working bathroom.

Hindsight is 20/20, okay?

"This isn't working, Mommy."

"What's wrong?" Even as I asked I could see the problem. The bucket was a little too high, and he couldn't really squat for maximal turd delivery without bumping into the rim and losing his balance.

Luckily, our trusty Little Red Wagon sat in the path mere feet away from our all-American family photo op. I pulled the wagon over, and after a few trial-and-error attempts to position my son's asshole directly over a bucket, we both kind of realized that hey, if he'd had to shit that bad, he'd have done it already.

So we got in the car and drove to the appointment.

We left the bucket where it lay.

For next time.


2.

The whole thirty-minute drive home from the 4 o'clock appointment, Buster sat directly in the line of fire from the scorching rays of the Seattle October sun.

First, he screamed, "Too bright! Too bright!"

I handed him a book. "Here, put this over your face."

He spiked the book back at me and kept writhing and screaming.

"Do you want my scarf to put over your eyes?"

"OK."

I handed him my scarf.

"NOT THIS SCARF!"

"This is the only scarf I have."

"I NEED ANOTHER SCARF!"

"Well... gosh. I don't have another one. Use that one."

"NO!"

"Or you could use the book."

"NO!"

"Or you could cover your eyes with your hands."

"NO!"

"What do you want to do."

"I WANT YOU TO TURN OFF THE SUN."

I clapped my hands twice, said, "Bippity boppity BOO! Alright, Buster. I have just turned off the sun."

Buster stopped crying.

"Thank you Mommy."

Chicken peered out the window. "Huh!" He said, like a fella who just spotted a menorah in the new neighbor's window. "So that's what it looks like when the sun's off. Still pretty sunny, I guess. But... you said the sun's off, so..." I winked at him in the rear view mirror.

Buster rode the rest of the way home smiling as he squinted in the bright, bright sun.



3.

Actual conversation at dinner:

Chicken: I can't eat with this spoon.

Me: What's wrong?

Chicken: It's too wet.

Me: You're eating soup.

Chicken: I know. The soup keeps slipping off the wet spoon. I need a dry spoon to eat my soup.

Me: But...

Chicken: Let's come up with a solution. First, we'll need a straw.

okay
i mean
if you think of the food chunks
as the "soup"
and the broth is the problem
because it is wetting the spoon
and the noodles are slipping off
okay
okay
i'm with you
you're right
a straw might be just the ticket


4.

There was a difference of opinion about whose turn it was to use the excavator in the bath tub.

AND FOR THAT
THE PUNISHMENT
IS DEATH
BY BLUGEONING


5.

It's not that I was done at bedtime so much as I was done at breakfast time, but still somehow spent the next 8 hours summoning the will to literally turn off the sun at the whined commands of my children.

So when I got the kids out of the bath, into their bedrooms, and began the nightly "I do not negotiate with terrorists who NEED night diapers unless they want to sleep in their wet, clammy, terrorist pee pajamas" spiel, and then Chicken decided to throw the ugliest fucking stuffed monkey on EARTH, seriously, on God's green Earth, and it hit me in the side of the head, I was Done.

tell me i'm wrong
look at that fucking monkey
he won it at the fair
my son actually picked this monkey
as a prize
he scanned the prizes
and picked
this
fucking
monkey

it's burgundy
it's a burgundy monkey
in a turtleneck


and that turtleneck
is ribbed
and has these little white pubes all up on it
like this monkey was ripped off
from an AARP furry party

you gonna throw this monkey at me
you gonna throw this
busted ass
cheap
fuckin white-pube-sproutin
turtleneck-wearing
wine-colored monkey
at ME?

aw
hell
no


Now keep in mind that I have spent the last month or so really taking the time to examine my feelings of anger, question what I'm really feeling, and why I'm feeling it, and then attempting to be both honest and age-appropriate in communicating those feelings to my 2 and 4-year-old. So when I say I was done, I don't mean that I set my hair on fire and screamed YOU DID THIS TO ME as my scalp literally melted onto my shoulders.

I mean that I sat there on the floor, took a deep breath, and tried to explain why I was so mad about this monkey.

"You know what, Chicken? No. I feel angry when you throw stuffed animals at me. I feel angry because I spent the whole day working for our family.

Do you know what I did for you today? I stubbed my toe running to you because you screamed EMERGENCY at 6:15 am and when I got into your room you told me that you found a tooth we hadn't brushed last night. I brushed that tooth, and then I put you back in bed, and instead of going back to sleep I made sure your lunch was packed, and your morning snack, and that your water bottle had clear, fresh water in it. And then I did that for your brother, too.

When it was time for you to wake up, I went into your room and said good morning darlings how did you sleep, and I cleaned your body and helped you get into fresh, clean clothes that I myself put through the washer and dryer before folding and placing them in your dresser that your dad and I bought, assembled, and then stained ourselves in the garage last spring. I did the same thing again, for your brother. I helped you both make smoothies for breakfast because even though it's harder when you help, I know you love making smoothies and I wanted to make sure you started your day feeling a sense of personal accomplishment. Then I cleaned up after the smoothie-making. Then I made your pancakes and cut them into bite-sized pieces.

I reminded you to go to the bathroom before we left for school. I remembered your bike helmet so you could ride bikes on the playground; I remembered your coat so you'd be warm enough if it stayed chilly. I remembered lunches and snacks and water for three people. In the car on the way to school I made up little songs that rhyme with my phone number so you would know how to call me if we ever got separated. Three-oh-three, the cat in the tree... seven-two-four, started to snore...

The whole time you were at school I tended to your brother - I kept him clean. I fed him, built block towers for him to destroy, read to him, weathered his kicking tantrum when I stopped him from LITERALLY wrapping a curtain cord around his neck and jumping off a chair, because it is my job to keep you both safe. I put on a Batman band-aid on his pinched finger, cooing "oh no, poor baby," and then I put another Batman band-aid on another finger because he really likes Batman right now.

I picked you up, brought you a sandwich from home because I knew you'd be hungry after school, and even with the sandwich I went through the Starbucks drive-thru to get you a chocolate milk and a bag of popcorn. Because I love you, and because Mondays are long days, and I'm proud of you for hanging in there.

I held a bucket under your ass on the gravel path beside our house, while you grunted and farted and did not, ever, shit. I clipped you in your car seat to keep you safe. I made sure you got to your appointment on time even though I had to park in a loading zone to run you inside, and almost got a ticket.

The whole time you were at your appointment I tended to your brother, clipped on his bike helmet and tightened it, and helped him learn to ride the balance bike in the driveway, and sang "Boogie-Woogie Piggy SERIOUSLY 47 times in a row. I dug out the baggie of cut strawberries I'd packed for his snack. I changed his diaper when he pooped.

When you came out of your appointment I held your hand to keep you safe when we crossed the street even though you whined and tried to shake me off. I held your brother's hand, too, and somehow, also, his bike, with the third hand I invented that used to be my elbow and rib cage.

On the way home, I turned off the sun for you. Plants need the sun, Chicken, to make their food. But I turned it off. For you. And your brother.

I made you dinner. I tried to problem-solve a way for you to eat soup without getting your spoon wet. I didn't give up on that. I took that seriously, Chicken. I care because you care.

I drew a bath for you and let you pick the essential oil to drop into the water. I helped you brush your teeth. I toweled your body with your favorite freshly laundered, dried, and folded towel, so you wouldn't get chilled. Ask me how your favorite towel got clean, dry, and folded again. Ask me again, tomorrow.

I worked every second of my day for you, Chicken. And it was my honor. It was my privilege. It was not always my joy, but it was always an unquestionable imperative that I did with the mantle of pride and gratitude. I am grateful that I get to be your mother.

But now, after all that, we come into this bedroom and what, you throw a monkey at my head?

No.

That is not how you treat your mother. Not when I work this hard for you. Try again, sir."
We all go a little mad sometimes.




What I'm not going to say is
give yourself a break.
You're only human.

I won't join that chorus.
I don’t like that song.

Do you ever see pictures in the news
of a mother who's hurt her child?
Orange-jumpsuit,
glassy eyes?

Somebody says,
"What a monster."
Somebody says,
"Can you imagine?"

Do you ever feel pity?

Do you ever feel
dread?

Me, too.

What I'm not going to say is
you're not like HER.
Don't worry about that.
You would never…

I've been a parent long enough
to pray those promises,
rather than make them.

Holding my newborn son in my arms
I cried and told my husband
I was afraid I'd hurt the baby.

"Really?"
He looked at me
like I was yelling at a store manager
with a gun holstered on my hip:
measuring the distance between us,
measuring me.
"I don't think you would."

"No," I said, "I wouldn't.
But I might become
someone
who would."

When Somebody told you
that having a baby changes you forever,
you imagined you'd start saying "fiddlesticks”
and develop brand loyalty to paper towels,
start wearing high-rise jeans.

You imagined you'd be the yourself
that's cast and costumed
for a Swiffer commercial.

Then you had the baby
and you realized for the first time
what changed forever means.

Your organs migrated.
Your bones could bend.
No part of you was untouched.
Including your kindness.
Including your mind. 

The world was suddenly strange;
you, a stranger.

I was born spitting nails and slapping back offers of help.
I climbed to the top of a ladder in a cherry tree
before I could eat a cherry
or say the word "tree."

And suddenly,
I didn’t believe I could do
anything.

What else could be lost?
What else that I was sure of
could leave me?

What about the fixed part of my humanity,
that does
not
hurt
children?

Having a baby changes you forever,
Somebody said.
They forgot to add,
"but you won't lose your mind.”

Or maybe Somebody didn’t forget.
Maybe Somebody has been a parent long enough
to pray their promises, too.

You’ve felt the occupation?
Lusty rage pours into your fingers
curling them into fists
full of a child’s arm.

Me, too.

I’ve checked, shaking,
and exhaled deeply
when
thank God
there was no bruise.

What I’m not going to say is
you’re such a great mom.
Your kids know you love them.

I will not try to make you comfortable
in a place you do not want to call home.
Even though it seems to be
the kind thing to say,
reflexively: “it’s okay.”

Somebody told us, 
kids have to learn
what happens when they push buttons.
Somebody told us not to worry about it. 
Somebody said, 
don't be too hard on yourself. 

We are worried about what we’d have to do
to earn the concern of these nice people
who seem to think we are like them.

They've seen us patiently smother a tantrum
with silence, back rubs, patience.
They've eaten our homemade bread.
They're sure we're just
being hard on ourselves.

We know
how scary we can be.
When no one else is around
at home
where the children bend us
like bones,
where we scream.

We are worried they think we’re exaggerating
when we say, “I really lost it this morning.”

Because they smile at us and say,
“I understand. I snapped at Sophia,
‘young lady,
get downstairs
this
instant!’
I really lost my temper.”

We think,
you are nice
but you do not understand;
When I lose it,
I can’t remember
what I said.

They think the “it” we lost was our temper.

That’s the difference between temper and rage:
In a temper, you slam the door.
In a rage, the rage slams it
with the arm you left behind
when you stepped out
for a minute.
For some air
when it got
too hot in there.

What I’m not going to say is
Everybody gets mad.
Give yourself a break.
Kids are annoying.

I’m going to say:

I never hungered for the sound of a voice
I hated
until I met my son,
the love of my life,
my nucleus,
my nemesis,
the nails on my chalkboard.

He turned me into one of those bugs
drawn inexorably to the humming light
that will consume it in its ecstasy.
But I can’t blame the light for shining. 

I can wait out a tantrum,
humming "you are my sunshine,"
safe.
I can be safe.
I can be not.
You, too?

I'm so glad I found you,
here in the place where everything you do to your child
is two stories in your head:
what I have done,
and
what was done to me.

Both stories are yours to tell,
but you only get to write one.

My friend,
your guilt isn’t crazy.
You have reason for regret.

You have already hurt your child
as you were hurt
when you were small
and hid from your loving parent.

You already know that you don’t have to hurt your child
to be heartbroken
by your child’s fear that you might.

Before the baby
changed you forever,
you thought
I’ll never scare my child like that.
What a monster.
Can you imagine.

You thought
Kids are annoying
and they need to know what happens
when they push buttons.

Then you realized that bones bend
and loving parents lose their minds
for seconds at a time.

Loving parents open bedroom doors
walk to their sleeping children
lie their heads on the pillows
and say
I’m sorry
I’m sorry
I’m sorry
baby.

You touch his hair
determinedly gentle,
as if fingers could clean the wound
that he may be dreaming 
bad dreams
about you.
I will never hurt you.

Loving parents cry.
They pray the promises they can’t make:
I’ll never scare you again.

You can’t stop seeing
the way your toddling baby’s hands flew to his chest,
the flinch
so soft,
so small;
the instinctive gesture of defense
just
nothing
against the slippery beast of rage
that shot out of your mouth 
screaming.

Now you know
all loving parents
are sometimes monsters.

I won’t say
cut yourself some slack
because it is your job
to get better.

It is terribly, mercifully true:
we can change
forever. 

I will say
you are not past forgiveness.
You are there,
now.

I will say

me, too.