Little Pink Pigs
Lettuce pinned under my left arm, tongs stir bacon with my right. Grease fills the pan, bacon shrivels up. Jack and Fiona keep asking, “where’s my dinner?”. I bring out broccoli, beats, onions, sautéed asparagus. A bowl of lettuce. The bacon goes first, Jack and Alan eat most of it. Fiona only takes a couple bites. They eat the sautéed broccoli but won’t taste the asparagus or beets. The next night I make asparagus and broccoli soup, my kids won’t taste it, even though they love broccoli. I decided Last Wednesday to become a Vegan again. I explained it to the babies, I told them I was eating vegetables, fruits, and grains, and that I wasn’t going to eat animals anymore. It didn’t seem like they understood. I focused on the health aspect of eating a vegan diet. I said it’s the healthiest way to eat. My husband does eat meat, he loves meat. He was also brought up Catholic. I get nervous to talk about my belief in God the same way I feel nervous to talk about vegetarianism or veganism. Animal rights, animals as sentient beings, that bacon is a pig, one of those cute little pink pigs in your story books. God and Animal Welfare are such sensitive topics. I am nervous about talking to my children about these topics. I don’t believe in God and I believe animals are sentient beings. I would love my children to follow my footsteps. But I also don’t want to influence them or make them believe what I believe. They can make their own choice.
I wonder why I feel like I can’t be free to talk about my own beliefs? I have always felt uncomfortable telling people I don’t believe in God, they always seem shocked. Now that I have kids I feel they are judging me, “how can you raise your kids without a belief in something?” They say. But I do believe in something, that we’re here and then we’re not. We can leave behind our words, our art, our buildings we build, but we turn back into earth when we die. Why is one belief system more valued than another? Why is any religious belief better than being an atheist? But I’m not going to tell my kids, “You’re an atheist” because I do believe when they get old enough they can decide if they believe in God or not. That’s how I grew up. I visited all kind of churches and learned about religions, and ended up an atheist, vegan(ish) person.
“The white man is bad, he’s making the black people work for free, they are slaves” I say. “Remember”, then I stop, I was about to remind Jack of the clip of news he walked in on, that I turned off immediately, but not soon enough for Jack to ask me questions. “Why are those people doing that?” He asked. “Because they are racist, the guys in white are bad.” It was the morning after the Charlotte riots, when the white supremacists were upset because the city of Charlotte, NC, decided to take down a statue of Andrew Jackson, because he was a slave owner and the statue is a symbol of white supremacy that was erected after civil rights were won. Theory being, to keep the fear of what was, of southern white privilege. I don’t like using the words black people, white people, I never have. I’m white and live, unfortunately in a very white county. My kids are turning four years old and I’ve taken them across the bridge to the East Bay or to the city as many days of the week as possible. I don’t want them living in a white privileged bubble, even though that’s where we do live. As I read the story of Harriet Tubman, a book Jack picked out at the book store yesterday, I am having trouble simplifying the story enough for four-year old’s. I don’t like saying “Black people” because I’ve never talked like that, as if that were something I needed to point out. I try to read the story, which is an amazing children’s book, all about the underground railroad. Jack and Fiona can understand hiding and escaping. Harriet Tubman was a hero, rescuing people. “Are those bad people” Jack asks during the underground railroad scenes. “No, some white people were good, are good. They helped the slaves escape.” Slavery is a horrible story, as I sit here and write this I start to cry. Terrible things happened in our country. I change the subject from skin color to freedom, civil rights, and how important it is for them to vote when they turn 18. Jack says, “and when we turn 5 we’re going to kindergarten.” I end on Harriet Tubman was a hero and you guys can be heroes too. Protect civil rights, equality. They both understand what equal means and give me many examples. They get it. I wanted to explain to Fiona she is getting services for her hearing loss because of battles won for people with disabilities but I think that she’s too young for that lesson. It’s hard to know what kids are ready to learn about, but they are curious and want to learn. I am bad at filtering information, I just hope they don’t think all white people are bad! But I think because of our countries history and living in such a white county it’s natural to have suspicions and I would rather my kids know when someone is being racist than ever think it’s o.k. to talk bad about someone because of what they look like.
No internet. That’s good. I was just about to go fiddle around on there instead of writing in my only few minutes to spare today, Jack is watching The Lego Show and Fiona is in the bath, it’s been quite a week. Wait, it’s almost halfway into the next week. Days blend into one another, weekends don’t change for me as far as needed engagement in life, lives of others. I wonder about the other moms at the gymnastics class that yell down from the observation deck “That way lily” and before they get that out they yell the kids name a gazillion times trying to get their attention, “Lily, Lily, Lily” distracting all the other kids, so pretty soon all the kids are yelling up “Hi Mommy” and half the kids aren’t paying attention to the coach, so then all the moms start shouting down to all their kids and it’s extremely annoying. How do they have the energy to be engaged with their kid even when they shouldn’t be? Fiona does great at gymnastics, she listens to all the directions and pays close attention to the coach. Fiona can’t hear and listens to directions better than Jack. Jack takes a while to warm up, even on his second visit today. He started sucking his thumb. Finally, he jumps in, but not reserved -no- balls to the walls, skips the listening part 50% of the time. “Slow Down Jack, you’re gonna get hurt” the Coach says over and over. “I can do it by myself” He tells her when she gives him direction on a backwards roller move. “No Jack, I’ll help you” she tells him. He finally listens. I had to not yell “Listen to the teacher Jack” from the observation deck, that would be inappropriate. I’m not like the other moms. I study my sign, they look at smart phones, in between watching their kids and telling them which way to run. At home, after Fiona got home from school I was trying to spend time with her, Jack immediately started acting out; grabbing her toys we were playing with, not listening when I said “NO”, being obnoxious. “I have to go put away the groceries” I tell them. “Play nice, keep your hands to yourself.” The groceries have been sitting in the hall since Jack and I got home, I haven’t had time to put them away yet. I’m carrying up the last set of bags and I hear a door slam, over and over again, then a bang and a cry. I run down, there’s a big gap between the first cry, it’s quiet, that’s usually a bad sign. Jack has a bright red bruise slash across the bridge of his nose, it looks painful. My paintings on the floor, he slammed the door so hard the painting fell off the wall and whacked him in the face. He’s so full of energy and moodiness. He’s shy and gregarious. He’s super sweet, caring, and loving, but difficult. He fell asleep and Fiona and I had a nice rest. When he woke up he told me he slammed the door on purpose, to keep Fiona out of the room. “It could have been your eye” I said, “It could have been Fionas’ hand”. I don’t know, I’m afraid he’s going to be the kind of kid that does dumb stuff, out of frustration or for thrills. I can’t wait till Thursday and Friday to get some time in my studio. I’m going to do my radio interview this week and I have a talk I’m doing at the gallery on Saturday. Things to look forward to outside of the world of Motherhood.
Jack calls my name many times, in a row, “Mama”. I am sitting on the floor with Fiona cutting out scotty dogs from birthday bags. I am so engrossed in Fiona and her project I ignore Jack several times. Also, I am annoyed by Jack yelling for me from one floor to the next. “Mama wipe my butt”, he’s not a baby anymore. I hear Jack saying he got poop smeared everywhere. I walk down the steps, see a little piece of brown, “Jack, is that poop on the stair?” I ask. “Yes” he says. I get the cleaner and a cloth. I walk into the bathroom and poops all over the toilet seat, floor, Jacks legs and butt, smudged with poop. The strange thing is I was at the park the other day waiting to use the bathroom. There was a boy in there, a year older than Jack. He took forever. When I went in to pee there was poop smeared all over the toilet seat. I thought the mom should’ve cleaned it. It must be a stage. I can’t believe how much cleaning of poop there is involved in the profession of parenting.
What is it about Mondays? Every week lately, when I wake up Monday morning there’s a catastrophic event. Today, the Fires, burn hot, red sun, Smokey skies. Depression, fear, general sickness sets in. I panic. What will I do, kids wanna play outside. They are finally starting to relax indoors now after we spent the day at the mall. Stay away from the ash. People gather together indoors. A group of us meet to take the kids to the new My Little Pony Movie. After the popcorn, sour apple candies, and the seven-up; about fifteen minutes into the movie; Fiona crawled onto my lap; all the sudden My Little Pony had green eyed monsters running around. It got scary. Next Jack got scared, then Fiona’s two friends. Pretty soon we were all back out in the mall. I told the ticket lady the movie was too scary for three-year old’s, how do you make My Little Pony scary? And Why? She gave me a refund. We walked around the mall parenting. I was tired, from the shock and sadness over todays tragic event. I told the babies how lucky we were, to be safe from the fire.
Yesterday we went to the city, we hung out around Stockton and Grant. We ate Chinese food, walked through an ally where a man practiced Kung Fu, saw a mini Chinese parade with a paper dragon and giant drum, a loud Motorcycle parade rumbled by, Italians in Maserati’s, and the Blue Angels roared overhead. On Saturday we went to Pt Reyes, sat in the sun, wind, looking out into the great sea. Now I am back at home, it is a mess here. I can’t do anything to clean it, no energy, possibly a few loads of laundry, possibly the dishes. I feel so overwhelmed and short fused. My daughter is sitting right next to me, I tell her to give me space and she smooshes into me closer and closer. She keeps talking to me and I can’t help but laugh. She asks me why I’m laughing. I tell her she’s making me laugh, she gives me a hug. She has popsicle all over her face. Jack keeps asking me for a snack. I’m going crazy, but feel anchored , grounded by Jack and Fiona’s nudging.
A beautiful late June morning. Blue sky, cool breeze, I see a small bird on top of a tall tree, it just flew down, probably catching a bug. The chimes blow softly, I hear a chain saw off in the distance. My dog lays patiently on the floor waiting to be fed breakfast. My children are at preschool, my husband at work. In one hour, everything will change. Jack and Fiona will be home from school, the quiet will turn to laughing, playing, crying. A house of activity. Two paper plate turkeys still hang on the wall from last fall, Jacks is missing a gobbley eye. A few paintings they made last year hang next to the Turkeys, I can’t believe how long they’ve lasted with just scotch tape. Paintings that were created with little hands in a tiny moment in time. A moment behind us, never to come back. A moment of little babies making marks and eating paint. A moment so precious that we can never get back. The paintings now made by these young beings are becoming more conscious. They are not purely a chance to make a mess and explore the surprise of paint spilling and covering their little bodies, splattering and tasting. Sometimes now they even ask me to wipe their hands clean during a painting project. There’s still the occasional body painting.
I am a parent of children now, no longer babies; kids now who still need my full attention and love. When Fiona sat on my lap at the audiologist the other day, asking the doctor big girl questions about her hearing aid molds that were being made I was taken aback. She no longer sat there and just let the doctor squirt the mold making goo in her ears, Fiona wanted to know why and how. Her legs folded long over mine, her head right in front of mine. She wasn’t a baby I cradled in my arms trying to distract, nor a toddler I had to comfort, she was a big girl, still only three and a half years old, but aware of what was going on. I got a freight, I’m their parent, I thought. I have two kids. Having babies is one thing but kids? Strong, independent, smart, loving, kids. They are developing their own tastes and interests now. I balance between letting them explore and learn and grow and teaching them how not to behave without squashing their individuality or shaming them for doing things inappropriate in our society. It’s a difficult balance for me, I sometimes wonder if I would be considered a permissive parent. I hope I’m strict enough, I don’t want spoiled brats or entitled kids. It’s difficult to find the balance. At least I know they are loving and kind kids.
Layers of skin and organs and blood and pain. Layers of joy and pleasure and softness. Layers of hardness and calluses and sun spots and crusty toe nails. Layers of stress and relaxation. Of noticing, of ignoring. Of panicking, of accepting. I hate myself. I love myself. I hate him, her, them, us, our world. I love him. I love her. I love our world. I love my dog. I hate my dog. I love my chair. I hate my chair. Fuck, I hit the corner of my toe again on this chair. Fuck I hit my shin again on this stroller. Yesterday, I’m watching a couple, drinking forty ounces of Miller high life outside the Big Rock Deli. I pull up, think Yum, wish that was me. I’m with Jack, ready to pick up Fiona. Just gotta pick up some lunch. The couple looks at his phone. All of the sudden they jump up in a hurry, get in the SUV with forties half gone in their laps and take off. What are they doing? Where are they going? I feel cool with only one kid right now, but he starts pushing, he starts climbing, he starts trying on sunglasses, touching everything. I feel helpless. I follow him saying no. I follow my children saying no. I have best intentions. I am open and happy. The more I give the more they take. “You’re never satisfied” I say. It’s always something. They take and take. I give and give. I make time to love myself. I make time to take hot baths and put on facial masks and take care of my feet and take yoga classes and do spin workouts and eat right. My stomach still always hurts. My best intentions can’t remove my frailty. My age. My premenopausal symptoms. My disconnection with my body. My painful, swollen, annoying body. I love you body. Thank you body. You are a good body. But I hate you. But I love you. I’m trying. I lay down now. I leave the dishes, I leave the picking up to lay down. I put a pillow under my knees. I rest. I feel guilty. I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t say shouldn’t. I paint. I draw. I feel. I get excited, then exhausted. I get honked at as I’m driving and Jacks saying “I want to go home over and over again” and Fiona’s saying “I want tiny” over and over again. I’m sorry other driver. I’m sorry, maybe I cut you off on accident. I’m sorry. He drives behind me and when I make my left had turn he honks at me one last time to make sure I know how mad I made him. “It’s always the woman drivers” I hear my husband saying in my mind. We try. We try our best. We try to see you. We try to be good drivers with screaming kids in the car. O-Well. I take comfort in the fact that I never honk at people. I give them the benefit of the doubt. I am kind.