By Evie Peck
When I was about 29, my best friend from high school, Tia, set me up on a date with Bradley, a guy from her husband’s work. Tia was obsessed (as only a best friend can be) with the fact that I wasn’t close to finding a husband and starting a family. She had a one year old son and she was very happy with her new family. “What are you going to do when you are older and single and want to have kids?” she asked… like she was some kind of fortune teller or something.
We decided we would double date. We all met at a Bandara; Tia and her husband, with a sleeping child in a car seat carrier and me with my best game face and Bradley.
So Bradley arrived. He was a short, curly haired blonde, in a tight, black, short sleeved, nylon t-shirt that accentuated his biceps. “Hey,” he smiled at me. He and Tia’s husband shook hands. “I didn’t know you had a kid,” he said, pointing to my sleeping one year old godson. I realized then he didn’t know Tia’s husband very well. It was a nice summer night and it was still light outside at 7pm.
We all followed the hostess into the dark, atmospheric dining room. Bradley and I walked behind, slowly. “I had a lot of shrimp last night,” he said to me. Good opening line.
“Oh, wow,” I said. “I love shrimp!”
“No, I don’t think you understand,” he said, “I ate a LOT of shrimp.”
“OK,” I said, “I get it, because shrimp is delicious.”
“No. But I ate A LOT of shrimp.”
“It’s OK. It’s good protein.”
“No, no, no,” he said, dismissing my efforts to be agreeable, “I ate… SO MUCH shrimp. I mean SO MUCH!”
“OK,” I said.
We approached the table. “So I probably won’t eat much tonight,” he said, “because of all the shrimp.”
“Right,” I said softly. Was there any way this guy could turn things around and become someone I wanted to hang out with, let alone, love?
The waiter came over and Bradley informed the rest of the party that he wasn’t going to order because he’d eaten so much shrimp last night. I sat quietly.
“Get something,” Tia said, trying to be encouraging.
“OK,” Bradley relented, picking up the menu. “Come back to me.”
We all ordered and I wondered if Bradley really didn’t want to eat because he felt sick from the shrimp or if he thought he’d eaten too many calories. Like maybe they were fried shrimp?
“I’ll have a side of mashed potatoes,” Bradley announced, happy with himself.
Butter, cream, potatoes…. that’s how you make mashed potatoes. Bam. this guy had food issues.
The conversation flowed as I noticed Bradley eyeing the table bread. He played with the cloth napkin in the breadbasket.
“Where do you live? Do you live alone?” Bradley asked me.
“I am living at home with my dad, right now,” I said.
“Evie’s mom died 3 years ago,” Tia told Bradley.
“Oh wow,” Bradley said, “You’re so lucky. I hate my mom.”
We were all silent. That could have been the moment I got up and left. Was he joking? When he started ranting about his awful mother, we had our answer.
Then Bradley thought of something really important he needed to share with the whole table. ”I used to be really fat.” He ate his mashed potatoes with delight.
Muscle flexing, tight shirts, food issues, mirrored elevators, a side of mashed potatoes, too much shrimp… made sense.
“Wanna know how I lost all my weight?” he asked.
We did. I was guessing there’d be a story of exercise and eating right, but I was wrong.
“Besides being fat, I also used to have this really bad under bite.” Bradley pointed to his now well aligned jaw. “Most of my teen years I begged my mom for jaw correction surgery, but she was too cheap to get it for me.” Bradley’s disdain for his mother was sharp and unapologetic, “But when I was 19, she took me to a medical facility at the Army base near our house. She got some kind of deal, letting medical students do the operation. After the surgery, it got infected and I had to go back. Turns out they’d left a surgical sponge in my sinus cavity! My fucking mother. And they had to shoot this blue Windex-like stuff up my nose. It was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.”
I ate my BBQ chicken salad, horrified and also riveted.
“My jaw was wired shut for about 2 months and I had to eat everything in liquid form, out of a straw so I lost a ton of weight.” Bradley was so proud.
We Oooed and Awwed.
But his story wasn’t over.
“About five years later, I was over at my girlfriend’s parents house for dinner and as I opened my mouth to take a bite of food, my jaw unhinged and my chin dropped to my chest. I looked like I was giving a blow job to Godzilla.”
Bradley wiped the remnants of the mashed potatoes, out of the dish with his finger and sucked it with a smack.
I think I’ve talked about this before. Its always on my mind.
I don’t even know where to start with it. Even sitting down to write this I have many long pauses between sentences and thoughts.
I should probably start with I never was a big dater, even in high school. I remember clearly my first high school crush was on this boy Mike. Mike was tall, thin, curly mullet hair with a big smile and big brown eyes. But he never wanted to get to know me. Probably because we ran with different crowds, moreso I was still trying to find my place in that world seeing I had just moved to the area.
The boys I did date I always felt like I had to date them because they were interested in me, not because I was interested in them. I also felt ashamed to be dating them because they didn’t meet the match of the ‘popular’ people – the crowd at the time I desperately wanted to be a part of.
My insecurities kept me back from many things, let alone a good solid boyfriend. Even to this day, they are still around holding me back from meeting the nice guy. My frustration with them is exhausting. The questions are never-ending and play over and over in my mind, I cant believe I am actually going to say these out loud – how do I know I am doing ‘it’ right? Or is this what I am supposed to be doing – holding hands in public, saying this or that?
These foolish insecurities that I’ve been carrying with me since my teens, that probably attributed to the demise of my marriage when I was in my twenties, are getting to a point where they either grow up or move out. I can feel them surfacing now, when I am starting to entertain the idea of dating.
How can I expect to even meet someone when these stupid things are hanging around? Why at this age should I even care what other people think?
I go back and forth with these all the time. I also worry about dating takes time and that is time away from my kids. My kids are young right now and they are changing every single day, and I waited far too long to become a mother – especially in an unconventional way – that I am not sure I want to miss these days. So unless I know right away the guy is a possibility there is no point in my dating.
But then I get real lonely at family functions or especially as of late a work banquet where everyone was there with their spouse or significant other (literally I was the only person without a ‘plus one’). Talk about awkward and it is then I know for sure I want to be with someone.
So how do I do this? On the recommendation from a friend, I joined a dating site. I’ve viewed profiles, found a few interesting, took time to write a few and I’ve heard nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve received interest from what seems like the clan of Duck Dynasty, I’ve learned that what they say about black men is true (clear pictures and all were included), and know that men are definitely interested in women younger than them, like 20 years younger. It is with this I close my computer with disgust and defeat and crawl into bed and want to cry my eyes out. Though as quickly as I find myself in this funk I am just that quicker brought back to reality with the cries from the boys bedroom. As I pick up my teething infant I figure dating can wait just a little bit longer.
**picture is of Stefan, my last boyfriend. This was three months prior to my pregnancy with my eldest son.
By Evie Peck
When I was about 5 months pregnant I went to a friend’s dinner party. We met at a restaurant in Hollywood. I was through the morning sickness and the extreme exhaustion and was excited to go out. I hadn’t bought any maternity clothes yet. I was wearing a lot of my normal dresses and skirts. (Which, post-baby, I discovered were stretched out and no longer wearable, along with my ruined $20 per pair Hanky Panky thongs.)
There were a lot of people at the party I knew, and a few I didn’t. There were also two other pregnant women there. One of the pregnant women was a friend of mine. The other was a new face – Paula.
“When are you due?” Paula asked. Her husband, Dunn, was massaging her shoulders; one of the few things I felt like I might be missing by not having a partner.
“Us too!” Paula said, looking lovingly at Dunn.
“We must have been having sex at the same time!” Dunn almost yelled, giddy at the idea.
I smiled and gave a tiny laugh, the mouth closed, exhale through your nose kind. I wasn’t going to get into it… no need to explain my circumstance. Dunn seemed so excited by the idea of two stranger couples, screwing at the same time, getting pregnant, and then meeting at a restaurant five months later… why ruin his fun?
The pregnant ladies all ordered lots of french fries, various burgers, fried calamari, and other filling entrees and we ate them with gusto. We drank water while the others boozed it up.
Paula and Dunn continued to be lovey-dovey throughout the dinner. It made me think about what I was missing being single, I’ll admit.
In my fantasy, my partner would be loving and massaging and all.
I thought back on every guy I’d ever dated and couldn’t really find one who was the right level of affectionate. I thought of a few who were too touchy feely and it creeped me out. (Was it too much to ask to actually like being touched by the man I was dating?) I also remembered dating guys who never touched me. I remember one guy I was with who was so stand-offish I’d actually think loudly please touch me. No one I’d ever dated matched up to my fantasy of what I wanted or expected.
I knew my options were: A. Lower my expectations. B.Keep Looking C.Just have a baby and give up on men/dating. I guess there’s a D option in there, but clearly I went with C.
My life had changed so much already; just the anticipation of having my son had given me such excitement, such happiness, such hope, that even a few pangs of envy didn’t penetrate my demeanor. I ate my fried food, completely satisfied.
“We were all having sex at the same time,” I heard Dunn say again, to another guy at the party, as he pointed at me with one hand and, with the other, was very physical with Paula. Ugh. Enough, Dunn.
I was proud of the choice I had made. I wasn’t ashamed of not having sex to get to this point. I’d been through a lot to get here, but I didn’t feel the need to tell this guy my business.
I started to wish that I had more single pregnant friends. ANY single pregnant friends.
A few minutes later, when Dunn said, for the third time, we were all having sex at the same time, I felt I needed to make things right.
“Actually, I didn’t have sex at all,” I said in my nicest I’m not trying to humiliate you in front of the whole party who are now all listening to us voice. “I was inseminated at a fertility clinic.” Sexxxxy.
“Oh,” Dunn said, not processing my meaning. “Well, still, we were all probably having sex around the same time.”
He really wasn’t getting it. Maybe it’s my responsibility to help normalize unconventional families. Maybe I’m supposed to be the spokeswoman for single moms. Maybe someday, I’ll start a blog or something….
“Actually, Dunn,” I said so nicely, “I’m single. I’m having this baby as a single mom. I was having NO sex at all.” Then I smiled and shrugged, “Sorry.”
Dunn grinned and mumbled stuff like, That’s OK and Oh really? Paula snuggled closer into Dunn’s armpit, grateful she’d gotten pregnant the old fashioned way.
I really wasn’t trying to shame him. I just want people to think about those of us who are making choices and not doing things the way we were told we should do them.
By: Melissa Mensavage
When it started
I was sitting there rubbing my cold, clammy feet together waiting in the crisp, mauve-pink paper vest and sheet laying across my lap. I was wondering how long this was going to take and how soon I could get back to the office when the doctor walked in.
We said the usual uncomfortable greetings to each other. I was ready to rush through the visit because I really don’t enjoy the annual gynelogical exams (as if really any woman does!). The doctor then turned the usual visit down another road after reviewing my chart.
“Do you want to have children?” he asked, with his back turned to me, standing at the counter.
Floored, and annoyed, I responded. “Yes. Someday.”
Looking over his glasses at me, smiling, he said, “well now is the time.”
“Now is the time,” I repeated.
“Yes. You are thirty-five -prime time to have a baby -or it will be too late.”
“Yes. Well I need to find the guy,” I said, with a defeated tone.
My heart sank so far into my stomach I thought he was going to see it when he completed the exam. I felt the tears well up behind my eyelids. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that the window of opportunity was getting close to an end. I wasn’t anywhere near close to snagging a husband, let alone a date. How in the world was I going to have a baby?
The appointment came to a close. He wished me luck and left the room. I proceeded to lie on the patient bed for a few more minutes when there was a knock at the door. The nurse wanting to clean the room for the next patient didn’t realize I was still there. Still undressed. I was feeling paralyzed with this information. The nurse was startled, said her pardons, and proceeded to leave when that nagging, uncontrollable, I-am-not-breathing sob escaped. She turned around and reached her hand out to me, with kind words of “his delivery tactic can be very poor sometimes. Do your research on this and call me with any questions,” and lastly, “it’s not over yet; you have time.”
Feeling lethargic, I got dressed, wiped the mascara off my cheeks. I put my game face back on and returned to work, not giving this appointment and conversation another thought. I had big time travel plans for work coming up. I was a part of a high exposure project. I needed to make a name for myself. I let work runneth over everything baby related in my brain.
I was surprised to find myself feeling an emptiness within me a couple of months later, after the project came to a close and I was starting to resume my regular responsibilities. I wrote it off to post-implementation let down/depression. A few more months passed and this emptiness was still lingering. The emptiness would appear in the mornings before I arrived at work, it would appear as a heavy heart and the same lethargy I felt the day of the appointment. I would go through the motions but at a slower pace and internally I felt like I was a zombie.
This was also around the same time Angelina Jolie had just adopted -or was in the process of adopting -a child internationally, as a single parent. I read an article about her decision in one of the fashion magazines that contained the most adorable picture of her and her son. He was sitting on the bed, she was laying with her head in his lap. He had one hand on her face, embracing it, cuddling it and was kissing her forehead. I felt the love. I felt the connection between the two of them. I felt the same tears stream out of my eyes as they did the day of my appointment.
Through the tears and the mascara, I flipped open my laptop and starting searching the internet for international adoptions. Overwhelmed by the countless number of links to adoption agencies, websites with tips on adoptions, and online adoptive parent communities, I closed the laptop and again put it out of my mind.
It had been about eight months since I had completed the international adoption search on the internet. I hadn’t really given the baby thing too much more thought after that. Though I did focus on dating very seriously after that appointment. I joined Match.com and eHarmony.com, and communicated my ass off with dozens of men. I had numerous first dates with all the WRONG men. Date, date, date, date, date, and as I sat there in the bar or restaurant or coffee shop with these men, I knew within ten to twenty minutes of meeting them that they weren’t going to be the next boyfriend or husband, which meant no marriage, no baby. I would completely check out of the date. Trying to find a nice break in the conversation so I could make up an “emergency” and bolt! I was getting super frustrated with the dating process. I had nothing nice to say about it. I then met a man from work who I connected with while traveling in Mexico. I thought he was nice, somewhat funny, cute. He and I were both so cynical about dating. I immediately had us married in my head because now I was 36. One year older, one year closer to that cut-off date.
We had chatted via instant messaging quite a bit, grabbed drinks and dinner a couple of times. It was after one date when he proceeded to kiss me goodnight with chewing tobacco in his mouth that I realized that I was done with dating for a long time. I mean, really, who does that?
As I drove home from the restaurant, I knew I was never going to hear from him again. And it was then the adoption/single parent idea just popped right back into my head and settled in. It felt real and right, comfortable, like an old shirt.
The next day, I opened the laptop and again Googled “international adoption”. This time, I read each link that was returned, one at a time. So much information to process, so much to consider regarding what country, age of child, costs, etc. I wrote down as much as I could on the countries that accept single parents. I put all of this information in my purse and kept it there. Before I did anything I needed to tell my mother. She is my sanity, my insanity, my rock. Whether or not she approved, I was moving forward with becoming a mother.
I picked up the phone, dialed her work number and before she could say hello, I blurted out “I want to adopt a child internationally. I want to be a mom. I want to give a child a good home.”
I was nervous about her response. I expected her to either say nothing or have a negative comment about being a single parent. She had neither. She said, “have you considered having one of your own?”
“Uh, you need a man for that mom. And I don’t have one.” (Hello, mom, obvious? Thanks for rubbing it in!)
“No, you can try using a donor. I am sure there are donor banks somewhere.”
Dumbfounded by her response, my lower jaw hit the desk. After a long pause I said, “Ok, never thought of that. I’ll consider it.”
And that was it. Call was over. I went back to work.
That night, instead of doing more research on adoption, I Googled “donor sperm”.
It came time for my annual appointment. I had a different kind of nervousness going into the office. I wasn’t nervous for the exam as I usually am. I was nervous because I had planned to ask about the donor insemination process. This meant I was going to tell someone about my desires. My unconventional, non-suburbia way of achieving my dreams of being a mother. I was shaking when I wrote it down on the paperwork. I was petrified of the judgment the doctor would have about me wanting to be inseminated using a donor and not having a husband.
I didn’t say a thing when I was called back to the exam room. I let the nurse take my vitals, and when she asked if I had any concerns for the doctor, I bit back quickly, “No!” I know she read the paperwork I had completed when I arrived for my appointment. I didn’t want to tell her; that would make it real, and I wasn’t ready for the judgment.
Then I waited. And waited. It felt like an eternity for the doctor to enter the room. My hands and feet were clammy and I could feel my heart pounding so hard it was coming out of my chest.
Finally, the doctor entered. We exchanged the usual uncomfortable greetings. He flipped open my chart and started mumbling off my vitals, my history and then paused. He sat down in his chair, and turned around to look at me.
“So, you want to have a baby with donor sperm?”
“Yes,” I replied, biting my tongue to a point of bleeding, fighting off the tears, praying my heart stays in my chest.
“Ok. Well, we don’t do that here. You’ll have to see Dr. XYXY. Do you understand the process?”
Fumbling over my words, I said, “Yes … not really …well, no.”
He explained the details in his thick Irananian accent, never making eye contact with me. I kept my head down, repeating “uh-huh”, to all of his statements. It was like neither of us wanted to have the conversation, but he was doing so out of medical obligation and I was doing so because if I didn’t, I’d be letting myself down.
Appointment came to a close and as he walked out of the exam room, he said, “I’ll have the nurse give you Dr. XYXYX’s phone number. Good luck. We’ll see you when you are pregnant.”
No sooner did the door meet the door jam, was I standing over the garbage can vomiting up whatever I had left from breakfast. I couldn’t believe I did it. I actually told someone who could make a difference in this plan, of the plan. An action step completed. An action step that actually had action. No more dreaming about this, no more fantasizing. Actuality. Reality. “Holy Crap Melissa” I said to myself, looking in the mirror on the wall as I pulled myself together.
Standing at the nurse’s counter, with the doctor next to me, he instructed the nurse to provide the phone number and the reason why. I could have fallen over and crawled under the carpet at that point. I thought I was going to get out of the office before it was mentioned. Nurse looked over her glasses at me, and said, “ok” in a disapproving this-isn’t-the-city-this-is-married-with-two-kids-suburbia tone.
I grabbed Dr. XYXYX’s card and hightailed it out of the office. I cried all the way back to my car. How dare she judge me? I thought to myself. She has no idea what I’ve been through in my life. No idea that the quality of man that I find attractive and available today is far less than I had ever imagined. No idea that if I don’t become a mother, it’s a life deal breaker (now, not sure exactly what that means because it’s not like I was going to die if I didn’t become a mother. And there are many avenues of motherhood other than just giving birth to your own biological child).
I put the card in my wallet, where it sat for almost a month before I looked at it again.
By Evie Peck
When I was 9 months pregnant, I walked into a major chain baby store and I saw something I really wanted: a BABY BOOK – the kind where you write down everything that happens- first bath, first smile, first solid poop… It had a hard cover, thick pages and places to add photos… I started scrolling through:
Page 1: Baby’s birth statistics.
Page 2: About mom
Page 3: About dad
I was a single mom to be. I did have a dad in the picture; my best friend of twenty years was my sperm donor. Though we wouldn’t be co-parenting, I would put him in the “ABOUT DAD” page.
Page 4: Mom and Dad’s wedding
Well first of all, my best friend was gay, so we weren’t getting married! And what about the same sex parents who can’t marry! I was livid. I was hot and sweaty and HUGE and outraged.
“EXCUSE ME!” I yelled to an employee; she was maybe nineteen and this was most likely her first job.
“Yes?” she came over with a bright smile, “How may I help you?”
“Um ,” I looked at her name tag. Carrie. I gave a sarcastic laugh, “Well, Carrie, you can tell me where the baby books for alternative families are, THANK YOU!” I shot her an iron glare, knowing she would NOT be able to deliver.
“Yes! Our baby books are right here. I see you are holding one.” She was so naive.
“This is the only baby book you have?” I was gonna get her; I was like Johnnie Cochran with the small glove.
“Yes,” she said as innocent as a kitten.
I opened the book to the incriminating evidence. “Do you see that this book asks not only for the information for both parents specifically as MOM and DAD, but also asks for information about a WEDDING?!”
The salesgirl blinked. Clueless.
“Do you understand the problem here, Carrie? What if you are a single mom, like me? Do you just rip the dad page out? If you do, you miss out on the grandparents’ info on the back. And what if you are a gay couple? You can’t legally get married in most states, can you?” I was yelling at this poor girl, who was turning red.
There was silence and then a nervous laugh. “Ummm…. we must be out of them.”
“Out of them, huh!? But you said this was the only one.”
“Ummmm. We must have run out of the other kind.”
I was going to make her show me the other kind on the computer… I took a deep breath. I looked at the poor girl. I was having a hormonal rage and I was yelling at someone who was completely innocent. “I’m sorry, Carrie,” I said. “This isn’t your fault.”
“That’s OK,” she said happily, probably because she could tell I was leaving. Then she added, “There really should be a book that all families can use.”
I left the store feeling hopeful… and entrepreneurial. Maybe I’ll make that book.
By Barbara Matousek
“What sports did Grandpa Jim like?” my son asks. We are standing in the kitchen and he is pulling the scissors out from the drawer, cutting the plastic wrap off a frozen raspberry fruit bar.
“He liked all sports,” I say. Sam hands me the wrapper and I place it in the can under the sink. “But I think baseball was his favorite. Baseball and basketball and football.”
We have just snuck inside during Eva’s nap after spending an hour outside in the sticky humidity tossing basketballs into the net from different distances, the point values for each shot marked on the driveway with chalk. Sam was upset when he couldn’t make the shots as easily as he had yesterday, and his voice was getting whinier and higher until finally (thank God!) he made a 5-point shot and declared himself the winner.
Later in the evening we lay in bed next to each other, Sam’s blanket pulled up to his chin while the ceiling fan throws a slight breeze down on us, and Sam asks me if pirates are real.
“They used to be,” I say. “But pirates like you see on TV don’t exist anymore.”
“Is there still treasure?”
“Where did the pirates go? Are they all dead?”
He stops and thinks for a while and we both stare up at the fan.
“Some day when we’re all dead and not here, who will be here?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” I tell him. Lately he’s been almost paralyzed with fear of being alone so I tell him that we’ll all be together. “You and Eva and me and TT and Auntie Ann and Zack and Sarah.”
“Will Grandpa Jim be there?” he asks.
“And we’ll all be together. Our whole family. And I’ll get to see Grandpa Jim. I wish I could see Grandpa Jim.”
“Me too, Sammy,” I say. “Me too.”
And as my son rolls over to face the wall I think about the morning before last when Sam finally learned to catch, when he lit up with excitement and screamed “My first catch! I made me first catch!” and he wanted to do it over and over and over again. Or the way he wants to show me how long he can dribble the big plastic ball in the basement having suddenly mastered the rhythmic bouncing after days of practice. As I lay next to my son listening to the ceiling fan, my eyes fill with tears. “Grandpa Jim” died over 8 years ago, and I cannot remember the last time I cried about him, but as I rub Sam’s back and listen to his breathing as he sleeps, I miss my father just as much as I did eight years ago.
Note from the Editor-
This is a continuation of the infertility series that our readers have requested. Dr. Tourgeman will be doing a video series in which he will answer your questions in detail before you even step into a clinic. He will address single parents and couples, whether same sex or heterosexual. Please get involved; ask questions or, if you have been through the process yourself, give feedback. Tell us your story in our comments section.
What special considerations do you have for females conceiving without a partner?
By Wendy Rhein
I often feel like I’m living in a social experiment. I am witness to the circle of life every day with a 2 1/2 year old, a 7 year old, a 43 year old and a 72 year old sharing a relatively small space. I really should carry a notebook for my observations but I think my family would only grow more annoyed with me stating the obvious and then smugly writing it down.
I am seeing more and more similarities between my 2½ year old toddler and my 72-year-old mother. I was sick last week, incredibly put on ‘vocal rest’ by my doctor who gleefully told me I should stop speaking for 48 hours. I swear she was laughing when she left the exam room. While ill, I had the chance to study my toddler and septuagenarian mother from the vantage point of the couch and made the following comparisons:
1. Toddlers and the elderly both need a nap in the afternoon if you expect them to stay awake through dinner without a meltdown.
2. They talk on the phone the same way. There are lots of “hello, hello, hello?” at increased levels of volume until they just hang up.
3. One is growing taller and one grows smaller at the same speed.
4. Neither likes to be told they can’t do something.
5. Neither can get passed the Safari icon to find Pandora and both will yell for help when they can’t find their music.
6. When either has to go, they have to go. Get out of the way. Now.
7. The singular focus to achieve a new task like operating the Wii Fit or climbing stairs is inspiring.
8. Both would be happy with cookies and milk for dinner, especially if they missed a nap.
9. Both need shoes with Velcro and preferably with lights.
What I find most interesting is the bond they have. There is a connection, a tenderness, between my mother and my youngest son that is unparalleled. She adores my elder child but there is something about these two, whether they’re sharing a cookie, curling up on the couch hip to hip, or struggling to reach down and get their shoes on, they are co-conspirators in taking on the challenges life is throwing at them.
By: Barbara Matousek
We are sitting on the wooden deck on the east side of the aquatic center watching our four-year-old boys float on their backs and “do big scoops” and play a game called Mr. Fox What Time Is It, when an older father leads his daughter past us and back towards Sam’s pre-school swim class. Dad stops midstride and holds his foot up and shivers and pulls his belt and throws his head back and coughs like he has a hairball. Then he pauses a few seconds as if to swallow something and then moves on, pushing his wet daughter back to the pool.
“See? That’s what’s out there for me,” I say to Amy and she laughs.
Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t matter to me if he has no hair or his joints creak when he gets up from the poolside loungers. I’m sure he’s a really nice guy. He is, after all, taking his daughter to preschool swimming lessons every single day, and he is patiently leading her back to the water every time she loses focus and heads towards the giant mushroom in the shallow end or the sandbox on the west end. He’s just not my type. Though I’m not really sure what my type is. It’s been so long since I was even shopping.
A few days ago Amy and I watched as another older man chased his pre-schooler around the pool, the scowl on his face not for anything particular. He just looked like a grumpy old man. Amy speculated that he was Grandpa, and I told her no way. Grandpas don’t put themselves through this kind of humiliation over and over again every day. Chasing a preschooler around a pool is a dad’s job.
“He’s her dad,” I said. “I bet he’s not that much older than me.”
She bet me that he was Grandpa and after the little girl ran up to him and said “hi Dad,” Amy was genuinely surprised.
When Hairball guy has to chase his daughter again and chooses instead to head for the exit, Amy tells me about her 32-year-old friend who is frustrated with “what’s out there.” Amy told her friend to go older, to date the 40-year-olds.
“33,” I say. “If you don’t get them before 33—”
“They’re set in their ways and will never marry,” Amy says. “I know. I left that part out. She doesn’t need to know that.”
Amy is a relatively new mom friend, but I like her. She’s matter of fact and tells it like it is and really funny, and when I tell her I’m thinking about maybe starting to date again, she says “Find yourself a rich 60-year-old who is about to kick the bucket.”
I laugh and remind her that 60 is fewer than 15 years away for me. I tell her I don’t need someone else’s money.
“Mr. Fox! Mr. Fox! What time is it?” the kids all yell from the side of the pool.
I just need someone who is available for adult conversations during the half hour between the last diaper change of the evening and the time my exhausted body collapses on my bed, my queen-sized bed that occasionally accommodates a 4-1/2-year-old boy.
By: Holly Vanderhaar
In honor of its 100th anniversary, Girl Scouts of America has declared 2012 “the Year of the Girl.” I realized tonight that this summer is also, at least in our little corner of the world, “the Summer of the Woman.”
I have no idea if something’s going on in the stars, but there’s a lot of powerful female energy happening in our family lately. We’ve been treated to two movies—The Hunger Games and Brave—that feature strong and courageous female leads. We have had visits from four wonderful women in the last month. First was a friend, C., who’s faced some devastating setbacks in the past year, from going through a nightmare of a break-up to being diagnosed with cancer. She recently took a mini-tour through the Midwest to reconnect with old friends and celebrate coming through her radiation treatment with flying colors. We took Grace and Isabelle on a road trip to some Laura Ingalls Wilder landmarks here in Minnesota, including Walnut Grove, and listened to the audio book of On the Banks of Plum Creek as we drove. It felt great to reconnect with that pioneer spirit, especially since I’m related to Laura on my mother’s side.
After C. left, A. paid us a visit from California. She was only here for four days, but during her visit I laughed more than I have in ages. I needed to reconnect with my silly side, in the middle of a fairly stressful, over-committed summer, and I gave myself permission to take the weekend off, to obsess about movies and celebrities and good books in a way that I haven’t had much time for since I had the kids.
And then, a few days after A. went home, my mom and my sister came to town. My sister drove my mom up from Phoenix, and stayed a week. My mom is staying until the end of July. For the first part of their visit I was buried in work, the after-effects of giving myself the weekend off to act like a teenager with A., but if you want to dance, as they say, you have to pay the band.
But last weekend we set off, three generations of women, to spend a couple of days on the shores of Lake Superior. It was glorious. I have a passion for the North Shore; it feeds my soul and recharges my batteries and a whole host of other metaphors that don’t really capture how sacred it is, a place that transcends any language that I could attempt to use to describe it. I hope all of you have a place that does that for you. It was a gift to be able to spend those days together with my family at a place that means so much to me.
And soon I’ll be setting off with my daughters and my dearest friend to uncover the life story of another woman, Susanna Martin, the Salem witch who’s the subject of my upcoming research trip to Massachusetts. I hope my research and eventual writing do her justice. But with all this great goddess energy in the air, how can I miss? I’m so blessed to be able to raise my daughters in the middle of such a powerful tribe of warrior women and teachers and healers and poets.