Posted by: Hannah | 05/04/2018

in which I turn 40

Last week I turned forty, and it was mostly pretty good. I mean there was some shit that went down around any special day for which I have expectations that my family for whatever reason struggles to meet, you know? Harry bought me a small bag of chips in my favourite flavour to smuggle into Infinity War which was admittedly quite thoughtful, but then he also fell apart during the brutal last half-hour of said movie and proclaimed himself too sad to attend my birthday dinner… into every life a little rain must fall, and I’ve mostly managed to pretend I didn’t miss him around the table at the incredibly hip taco & tequila bar we went to. I wanted to not lift a finger to do anything for anyone else, and that decidedly did not happen; if I am ever hit by a bus on a Monday when my children are still living at home please send a replacement ASAP because while they all try, I am confident that it would be The Walking Dead season 1 by Thursday.

Parenting and adulthood are all about reconciling expectation vs. reality, you know? I mean I should really have known that it wasn’t suddenly going to happen that things would go the way I wanted them to just because sitcoms and Instagram have told me what I should expect. And besides, things are actually fine! My kids love me and are mostly happy people. My husband is a good kind man with a sexy beard who tries every single day to do right by his family. I am good at my job and have many loving friends. This is entirely exactly what I always wanted my life to be like and except for my personal fitness level which is direful and in need of repair, I have pretty much ticked all the mental boxes I had for entering my forties.

And yet. I’m struggling these past few months. I’ve had worse depressive episodes. I am getting up in the morning, getting dressed, making coffee, managing to remain pleasant no matter how many times I have to go knock on Harry’s door to get him up and ready for the bus. I’m really killing it dayhome-wise; I’ve got a bang-up routine down that works well and the littles are thriving. I’m putting a healthy and tasty meal on the table almost every night. The laundry is usually caught up. I’ve started reading again and I’ve been getting out for more walks and I’m not completely stuck in the Slough of Despond. Just… it’s there, out of the corner of my eye. I can see it, and I’m trying like hell to stay out of it, but sometimes it’s only a mere suggestion like a heat mirage on the highway in August and other times it’s lapping at my feet while the tide comes in.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about emotional labour, and how every thinkpiece I’ve ever read about it says it is things like remembering to book the kids’ dental appointments, or what shoe size everyone wears, or if today is library day. Those people are missing the point. The real emotional labour is offering guidance and support to your child who is having a hard time adjusting to the social minefield that is junior high, or figuring out if your other child is quirky or lonely, or making sure that your youngest child is remembering to make friends his own age. It’s making sure you remind your spouse to care for his mental health while stubbornly refusing to make space and time in your life to care for your own.

If you don’t remember your kid’s shoe size that’s what those shoe sizing gizmos at every single store that sells shoes is for. You don’t need to remember that, it’s not important. You do need to remember the names of your kids’ best friends and worst enemies, though.

Sometimes I worry that by the time all three of my boys are raised and gone I will be a husk, scooped out and hollow. Other times I can remind myself that I’m in the weeds right now; that we’ve had a very difficult year, that for a whole host of reasons it makes perfect sense that I would feel weary to my bones with it all just now. There will be a time after this I whisper to myself, a mantra, as each new crisis pops up and I’m rolling my sleeves up to deal with it, again.

I assume that when the sun begins to shine again, finally, that I will feel better. We’ve had a miserable rainy spring here and on the odd sunny day I can feel my mood change minute by minute. I hang out bedding and scrub floors and plan hikes and do big projects and I know that me is still in here, somewhere, waiting to come out and meanwhile passing her time hate-watching Riverdale.

Still, as my friend Nicole says (HI NICOLE!) at least I’m not pregnant in a covered wagon.

 

Advertisements
Posted by: Hannah | 04/06/2018

in which Caroline Ingalls got the shaft

Anyone who has talked to me for any length of time knows I’m big fan of the Little House book series (not the TV show, I watched exactly one episode and it was an abomination, sorry). As a kid I deeply envied my friend Leah; her grandmother was big into sewing and smocking and made her what to my eye was a perfect Laura Ingalls dress AND MATCHING SUNBONNET, CAN YOU EVEN. She wore it to school every couple of weeks for the entirety of second grade and we nearly broke up over it, I was so covetous. I read my Scholastic book order copies so many times that the bindings all fell apart and I had to replace them. I did a whole bunch of book reports on them. I’d spend entire days in the woods around my house pretending to be Laura.

Aside: Did anyone EVER want to be Mary? Wasn’t being Mary kind of like being Meg from Little Women? Thank goodness I had brown hair just like Laura so I didn’t have to wear a wig or anything.

Anyway I loved them even when really I’d outgrown them; there was something comforting about returning to them periodically throughout my teenage years, and when I had kids of my own I bought the boxed set so I could share it with them too.

Recently I started seeking out some of the non-fiction works about Laura and her life. I have a copy of the annotated Pioneer Girl which is a treasured part of my library. I’ve read several biographies from different points of view and over Christmas I devoured the excellent Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller.

Here’s what I’ve discovered (and this post was prompted by a discussion with my friends Nicole and Peady on Twitter today): LAURA INGALLS TOTALLY GAVE US ALL THE WRONG IMPRESSION OF CAROLINE.

As kids, we all thought Pa was the fun one, didn’t we? The one who told stories and played the fiddle and bought horses and candy and hair ribbons. The one who just wanted to go west and was always looking for a way to make more money and improve their lives. “We’ll live like kings!” he kept insisting as they squatted in a dirt hole beside Plum Creek, mocking the wise Norwegian immigrant who made a buck off Pa’s deciding that the lack of a useful wheat crop was due to said Norwegian’s poor farming ability and not the drought / historic plague of grasshoppers that decimated the state.

And then he buys an entire house on credit because that’s always a really smart idea.

Pa makes so many terrible decisions, and when you’re an adult and reading the actual historically-accurate versions of the Ingalls family story it gets really hard to forgive him for very much. He uproots them all from Wisconsin to head for the cheap prairie land (because the government is going to make “the Indians” move on, that’s a whole ‘nother series of posts but “Colonizing Land Thief” isn’t a good look for anyone). He buys the useless land on Plum Creek and congratulates himself for getting the better of an immigrant. When that doesn’t pan out he takes a job working for the railroad company, which is smart, but then he moves his family including two attractive teenage daughters into a 10 x 10 shack in the railroad camp, miles from anywhere and surrounded by men who haven’t seen a woman in months. He guilts Caroline into letting settlers stay in the surveyors’ house, making sure that she & Laura do all the work to cook and clean for literally dozens of strange armed men every night for weeks… and tries to tell her it isn’t nice to charge these men a dime a night for room and boardWhen the admittedly very handsome and eligible Almanzo Wilder pursues Laura, Pa not only encourages it, he brushes aside Ma’s very real and legitimate concerns about their daughter “who is only fifteen!” being squired about town by a man ten years her senior.

Don’t even get me started on him selling a cow to buy a freaking pump organ and the materials to build a room to put it in just so Mary can play it when she comes home from college.

Through all of this is Caroline, portrayed by Laura as formidable but not loveable. Beautiful but untouchable. Laura clearly fears her mother as much as she admires her, and craves her approval at the same time as she pushes back against Ma’s many rules for how to be a real lady.

As an adult it is hard not to see what’s really going on here; that Caroline Ingalls was holding the family together body and soul, that without her Charles would have been a homeless wanderer rather than the pillar of the community he eventually became.

RANDOM SUDDEN THOUGHT: Mr. Edwards was exactly who Charles Ingalls would have been, if not for Caroline keeping him on some kind of reasonably-productive forward path.

To sum up, Caroline was the lynchpin (old-timey reference!) around which the entire family revolved. Re-read the books and imagine being her while you do. Once you notice how many times she keeps them from ruin, you’ll never be able to unsee it.

You might even stop rolling your eyes about her pride in having a waist so tiny Charles could span it with his hands.

 

 

 

Posted by: Hannah | 04/03/2018

where we go from here

When so-called “mommy blogging” was in its heyday I couldn’t imagine ever running out of words.

Being a mom of a baby is hard. It is isolating. You don’t get enough sleep, or proper meals, or exercise. Everything in your life changes, but what no one tells you is that those changes just keep happening, and blogging was for me and so many others a way to connect with other women who were also reeling from the way their lives had been turned upside down.

Then you have a toddler, and maybe you go back to working outside the home or maybe you don’t or maybe you try working from home or working part-time or hey gorgeous babes do you want to earn awesome money while being home with your precious family. You try mom & tot groups and mom & tot movies and mom & tot swimming lessons and you worry about putting your kids in soccer or ballet or music class.

You still crave connections with other parents and you keep blogging, and hell, here’s this thing called Twitter and that’s immediate! You can build circles and have conversations with actual people in real time but you still don’t have to wedge yourself into your pre-pregnancy jeans that still don’t fit and, you’re starting to feel, never will again.

Maybe you Instagram. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you start but within a week have “likes” from people you don’t know and have never heard of on pictures of your kids and that makes you really uncomfortable so you delete your account (that was me). And you tweet more and blog less, because who reads blogs anymore anyway. Blogging is dead. Get a Tumblr.

One day you wake up and realize you will be turning 40 at the end of the month. You have an almost-teenager. You want to go back and patronize yourself as a parent of a newborn for thinking babies are hard. Your baby is now taller than you and is a remarkable story that you kind of want to share, at least with some people, but you can’t and don’t because it isn’t your story anymore. Your other kids are also growing and changing and becoming the people they will be for the next good long while, and you don’t really feel right telling their stories, either.

You suddenly realize you haven’t taken out the camera you used to love for over a year. You haven’t written anything longer than a 5-tweet thread in months. You don’t imagine going on vacations without your family anymore because you love them and want to share everything with them, but also you start to see with a growing sense of unease that you don’t remember anymore what it is that you want, who it is that you are. Approaching 40 has meant that you’ve let go of a lot of insecurities – turns out that “giving zero fucks” is really a thing that happens – but it also means that you’ve spent more than a decade living for other people.

You sit down, open a new post window, and start to type.

Older Posts »

Categories