The Problem of Otherness

I believe the biggest problem in our society is Otherness.

It’s the mentality that other people are not like us, and we can disassociate what we do to them, and how we feel.

IMG_2846It happens in marriages too. I remember one morning was particularly stressful, showering scrubbing my hair and getting increasingly angry at my husband for all the things that were not getting done. I was pulling my weight! I was busy and stressed! I was going to tell him off!

As soon as I stepped out of the shower and his eyes met mine, I could see in him all that same stress and overwhelm. He was trying his hardest too. I cried and hugged him because he became instantly human again. Not the scapegoat of my frustration and self righteous indignation. His feelings were every bit as real and valid as mine.

This is our problem. From far away we see differences, division, otherness. Only up close do we see ourselves in others. Instead of allowing room for empathy, we build walls.

Part of it is self preservation – that pain is not ours to carry, and we have enough of our own so why should we help? Maybe it feels like too much to bear. Maybe we are audacious enough to believe we are immune to that same suffering because we are insulated by our money or where we live or our values.

Surely we, as “rightful” Americans, would never be faced with the separation families are going through at the border.

Surely I will not be faced with prejudice because I am straight and white. (As if it were a choice and not a lottery.)

Why should I worry about it happening to others?

I am safe and that is separate from me and mine and my life and my choices.

IMG_7592We should help because it is the right thing to do. We should help because God calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We should help because as a parent, I can hardly stomach the thought of my own child being separated from me, even for a moment.

So often I am silent when it comes to politics – never wanting to offend. And as you can see from my last several blog posts, I keep it very light here. But this is not a political issue anymore. It’s a humanitarian one. The moment we began using a different set of standards for how it is acceptable to treat one group of people vs. another, it became so much larger than that.

And it feels wrong to stay silent.

So here I am, saying it. If you want to help, here are some resources.

Babycare, Level: Expert

To mix some metaphors, parenting is a lot like a circus act. You’re juggling two apples, three apples, four. One falls, you lose your rhythm, but you pick it up and start over. The next time one falls, you’re able to pick it up while keeping the other three in motion. You keep going. Eventually no apples drop your entire act, and you breathe a sigh of relief.

Then, they up the ante on you.

Some crack-pot ringmaster throws in a fifth apple. A sixth. Maybe a poodle. And a flaming baton. Sometimes a bowling ball.

But you just keep going, and hope that poodle doesn’t catch on fire too.

Two case studies:

  1. Diaper changing. First, you’re just trying to get the hang of it with a baby that lies there, practically motionless. The first couple of days it takes you a solid 10 minutes for the whole process. Months pass, and you gain confidence and skill akin to a pit crew at the Indy 500. Tires off, tires on, back on the track. Then, they get wiggly. And curious, and indignant. And it’s like wrestling a bowl of spaghetti to get them to lay flat on their back for longer than 3 seconds. (And you only need 15 seconds, if they could just hold on that long, dangit!) To the point where we now keep toys on the changing table specifically to hand him as a means of distraction. (Which he has now grown accustomed to and starts screaming immediately upon being laid flat on the table until you hand him his toy.) His toy, by the way, is an old prescription pill bottle filled with three pennies. One, because it makes a great noise when shaken, and two, because…
  2. Baby toys. I remember trying to get Teddy to play with toys when he was just a couple of months old. Even just getting him to reach or grip was a success. We would dangle the toys and play with them and ooo and aaaa to try to get him interested. Now he is a swift and unrelenting pick-pocket with an innate knowledge of which things exactly he is NOT supposed to play with. Turn your back for a second, he is chewing on one of those real antler dog bones. Or crawling for the electrical cords. Or, his absolute favorite, chewing remote controls. We’ve now learned our lesson. We don’t introduce toys anymore as exciting or fun. We introduce them as something mundane that he is not allowed to play with. Last week, we bought a universal programmable remote with absolutely no intention of programming it. Instead, we pretended to change the channel with it and then absent-mindedly leave it in places he could reach. Yes, we really did this. (Can’t believe I’m admitting to it…) He spent the rest of the day crawling around with it sticking out of his mouth, happy as a clam.

Yep, it’s amazing what a difference ten months makes. And if that isn’t enough, just look at these photos comparison:






In The Middle

About two months ago, I bought a new car.

Yeah, I know, I’m really good about announcing things as they happen. Long story short: the Jetta lived a good nine years and 99,870 miles, but in the last year of our relationship, she cost me over $3,200 in repairs, which was coincidentally more than the value of the entire car.

After being stranded in 100 degree weather with a baby in the backseat, and a $1,400 “doctor” visit in July, we parted ways.

Since then, I’ve been using my three-month free trial of XM Radio to relive my youth and listen to all the music I couldn’t afford to buy on CD in middle school. Yep, the dial pretty much never leaves the 90s and Pop2k stations.

Driving home today, a 2002 “classic” from Jimmy Eat World came on, and suddenly I was seventeen again and the memory of the newness of driving came back to me in a flood.

I had completely forgotten.

Remember the novelty of being in the car alone? How scary and exhilarating and liberating to be the only one? Totally fresh, brand new freedom? Taking to the streets, I was like a wobbly-legged baby deer (and just as good at navigation).

I’m now on my 15th year of driving and my fourth car, and yet the lyrics of that song still mean everything they did when I first heard them:

(I know, posting lyrics to a song – a total throwback move in itself…)

Don’t write yourself off yet
It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on
Just try your best
Try everything you can
And don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away

It just takes some time
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be all right

You know they’re all the same
You know you’re doing better on your own so don’t buy in
Live right now
Just be yourself
It doesn’t matter if that’s good enough for someone else

It just takes some time
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be all right

Almost 31 years old (in just four more days) and I’m still right there in the middle of the ride. And things are crazy. And I feel stressed. And sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself or my life or that new little creature that calls me mom. But I know everything will be just fine. Everything will be all right.


The First Thing I’ll Say About Becoming A Parent

There are so many things they don’t tell you about parenting.IMG_5586

Probably because no one ever decided who “they” was, and the ones who should probably be saying those things you need to hear are too exhausted to remember if they fed the dogs today or bathed within the last 48 hours.

Then there are the experts. Either professionally titled or self-proclaimed, they say far, far too much. Not just in more graphic detail or with greater fervor than you ever wanted, but in terms of sheer volume of information.

They take the idea of internal locust of control to the nth degree. They count their macros and micromanage and insist that you can schedule and flowchart your way to the perfect child.

What To Expect When The First Year is 783 pages, not including the index in the back. And that’s assuming you ever graduated from pregnancy to child-rearing books.

What I desperately wanted at the time of having my now eight-month old child was more like a pamphlet. A tri-fold brochure you’d find on a rack in a hotel lobby. “How To Keep Your Baby Alive For 12 Months, The Highlights.”

I’m a big-picture person. I appreciate a good overview.

In preparation for this blog post, I tried to think if I could be a good and virtuous “they” and offer anything helpful to those that are a couple of steps behind me on the mom marathon.

The truth is, I got nothing. I have very few tricks, tips, Lord knows I haven’t found any shortcuts, but I can say this –

Don’t let yourself feel guilty. It will make you crazy(er than you already are).

Don’t do it. Don’t let yourself get mired in feeling you could or should have done something different or better.

For returning to work too early, for staying home from work too long. For not returning to work at all, even though you swore you would.

IMG_5580For not breastfeeding, for not breastfeeding long enough. For breastfeeding beyond common social standards.

For wondering if that sushi you ate while pregnant is the reason your baby is the last one at daycare to start crawling.

For wishing they still took healthy babies to the nursery so you could get some SLEEP while you’re still in the hospital. For crying when they take the baby away, just for a minute, to get a hearing test.

For letting them cry it out. For snuggling them at night and letting them fall asleep in your arms.

For not reading enough, and instead Googling things from your phone while holding a crying baby.

IMG_5581For telling your family to give you space. For telling your husband he’s just going to have to put up with your family all up in everyone’s space because you need them more than you thought you would.

For taking time to yourself when you need to escape. For temporarily abandoning hobbies that meant so much to you before baby.

For feeling like you’ve completely lost it.

(For scribbling your ideas for a blog post on the back of a note from your daycare while you sprinkle rice puffs in front of your baby to distract him.)

For all the thousands of things that make up your new life as a parent. Because your life is going to get reallllllll messy and you don’t have to have it all instantly figured out.

Just stick in there. You’ll find your way.

And eventually, you’ll find a day to squeeze in a good shower.