Monday, March 19, 2012

The day I will never forget.

One day when I was a junior in high school, my cousin's now ex-wife (I'll call her J.) picked me up from school and took me to their house so I could help her bleach her hair with a home kit. They lived in a cul-de-sac, and as we rounded the corner, we saw police cars everywhere, right in front of her house and the house next door. She pulled into her driveway, we got out of her car, and immediately were met by a police officer who asked what we were doing. She pointed to her house, said she lived there, and asked what happened. The officer replied that there had been a death next door.

J. freaked, of course. A family lived there, with high-school-aged kids. She asked, in a panic, if she needed to worry about a murderer hiding in her house or something. The cop reluctantly told her that no, she didn't need to worry, the death was the result of a suicide.

J. of course asked who? WHO? Still reluctant, the cop, who - as a random side note - was the father of a girl in my high school class, answered, "The girl, the daughter."

I had no idea who this family was. J. obviously did. She staggered, weakly asked what we needed to do. The officer told her to stay out of her side yard, the one that was between the two houses, because the bullet had exited the window facing the yard and they still needed to find it.

The bullet. This girl shot herself. J. was absolutely devastated. In shock, she told me how this girl, I'll call her A., had brought them home-baked cookies when they moved in. J. said she was sweet. She was, I think, two grades younger than me, and we apparently went to the same high school, which was just big enough for everyone to not know who everyone was. She had two older brothers. We went into the house and proceeded to glue ourselves to the front room windows that overlooked not only A.'s house to the right, but also the rest of the cul-de-sac and part of the entrance to it to the left, in true gawker fashion.

Taking everything in, J. noticed that none of the family's cars were there. We realized that the suicide had literally just happened. It later came out that a grandparent and stepfather were home, she shot herself in her room, so they obviously heard the shot and the police were summoned.

I don't remember how much time passed before J. suddenly stiffened and said, "Oh no, there's the brother's car." A bright yellow Geo Storm pulled into the cul-de-sac, and we watched a boy about my age get out of his car and stare, completely bewildered, at the police presence at his house. The police came to him and told him what happened. I got to watch this kid's reaction to the news that his sister was dead of an apparent suicide. He had friends in his car. He flipped the fuck out. His reaction was rage. He howled, threw stuff, kicked his car, raged around the yard, kicked the fence. Pure anguish. It was awful.

I don't remember how much more time passed, but J. stiffened again, a look on her face of absolute horror. She shakily pointed to the left, the entrance of the cul-de-sac, and said in a very hollow voice, "There's the mom." I snapped my head to the left and saw this woman, who I had never seen before, getting out of her white car to grab the mail out of the metal mailbox units at the start of the cul-de-sac. By her actions, it was obvious she had no idea that her life was about to shatter.

Have you ever watched someone just prior to their life shattering? Watched them while knowing that their life is about to crumble down around them?

I have. In horror, I watched this woman, knowing with the sickest feeling in my gut that she was literally doing the very last action of her life as she knows it - collecting her mail. My reverie was broken by the shouts of the son, who was still outside. He was screaming at her to get home. "Mom! Get home NOW! Mom!" As she reached into her mailbox, she looked over, took in the police cars, her screaming son, jumped into her car, and tore into the cul-de-sac. She parked as close as she could, got out of the car. The son was still screaming, and her husband (the stepfather) was running out of the house to meet her.

She was wearing black. She had blond hair. Her husband told her that her daughter was dead and she fucking crumbled. She started screaming, this anguished scream that only a human whose soul has broken can make, while bending over at the waist and reaching up her arms to pull her blond hair. Her husband grabbed her and tried to hold her while she screamed and screamed and screamed and pulled her hair. She could not stand up straight. Then, she broke free of her husband and stumbled, bent at the waist, around the yard, pulling her hair and screaming.

I will never forget that sight. It is the worst thing I have ever witnessed. As I write this, I see it in my mind like it happened recently, even though it was actually half of my life ago.

I witnessed, in utter horror, a mother's soul die, her heart shatter, her spirit break. I was in shock for about a week, in this dissociative state, trying to process the horror of it all. I was a young, innocent, very impressionable high-school girl. After the shock wore off, I remember feeling very angry. I was angry at A. for having put her family through that pure, horrifying anguish. And all I could think about was why? WHY did this young girl feel that her only way out was death? WHAT could possibly be so wrong in her life that she would rather not live?

I don't know how long afterward it was that my one-grade-younger best friend told me that there was word on the street, coming from A.'s friends, about why she had killed herself. Weeks, months, I'm not sure. What I remember is this:

Apparently, A. was gay. And because of this, she was tormented. You want to know by whom?

Her family. Her own brothers. My friend told me that A.'s friends were coming out and saying that her brothers were abusive towards her because of her sexual orientation; they verbally taunted her, called her names, and even hit her while calling her a dyke.

And this young girl felt so alone and so rejected, by her own family, that she took the only way out that she knew. She killed herself.

Being the typical high school kid, I felt the impact of this but didn't know how to process it. I remember feeling surprised that her being a "dyke" was something that anyone thought was a big deal. And life, life, carried on, but I did not forget what I saw. I did not forget. I will never forget.

Fast forward to the present day. I have children of my own. I am a mother. I wear my heart outside of my body, in the form of three little boys. Motherhood has challenged me in ways I never thought possible. Some days, being a mother is the hardest thing in the world on me. But there is one thing that I can say with absolute confidence, that is the core of my being, that nobody could ever shake from me.

I love those three boys more than anything, and I do NOT care if any of them are gay.

See, I didn't realize it then, but I know now that my ability to care whether or not someone is gay died, along with an anguished young girl, that day. If it was even in me to care in the first place. The absolute horror that I witnessed is something that I never want to experience again, and I, in this present day as a mother, am filled with exploding fury that some little girl killed herself because she was tormented because she was gay. That she felt that she would rather be dead than live the life of a gay person who was rejected by her family.

FUCK. THAT. What an absolute waste. An absolute, senseless waste.

Anyone who personally knows me has heard me say that I am fully expecting to have a son-in-law someday. Even though I only have boys, I am aware that I may still have a son-in-law. And, like I just said, I could not care less. One of my sons loves all things girl. He is the creative, right-brained one, and I can count on him to chose pink over blue, parade around in my high heels, put flowers behind his ears, and appreciate the beauty in the world, right before he thumps his brother over the head and absolutely annihilates a toy. He's also "all boy" and I can count on him to be a destructive, brutal force, all with that flower behind his ear. Whether or not this means he's going to be gay remains entirely up in the air because he's far too young for anyone to be making that determination, nor am I really concerned about it. Nor do I want anybody else to be, either.

Because who really cares? WHY does anyone care what two consenting human adults do together? Why? What does it matter to anyone? I've heard the argument, from people I love very deeply, no less, that the gays are going to "Make my kid gay." 

Wow! Solely because someone is gay, they have the power to actually turn other people gay?!?!

Seriously, I had no idea that gay people are so influential. I must start wearing my tinfoil hat to ward off their Jedi mind warp signals. I'll also start wearing it around people of differing religions, political beliefs, and morals, lest they are secretly as influential as gays.

Snark aside, I look at my boys and I know this critical thing: They are safe with me. They can be whoever they want to be, they can do whatever they want to do with their lives, barring the victimization of other people, and I am going to love them, support them, and never turn my back on them. I need them to know that they can be gay, straight, or anything in between, and they are going to have their mother's love. Full force.

I do not want to bury my sons. I do not want to be A.'s mom, coming home from a regular day to find that my life has shattered, that my child has chosen to no longer live, especially over something as unimportant and irrelevant as sexual orientation.

A couple of years later, at my friend's high school graduation, I saw A.'s family. Her mom was a shell, a zombie. She had aged physically about 25 years. I watched her, my gut twisting with the memories and emotions of that awful, horrid day. I wanted to go up to her and tell her that I was there that day, that I saw her, and that my heart had broken for her. That my heart was still broken for her daughter. That I don't want her daughter's death to be in vain. 

But I didn't go up to her. I was terrified to approach her, to bring up the worst day of her life. 

Eighteen years later, my heart is still broken for that little girl, and I still don't want her death to be in vain. I see the tide turning, the efforts to legalize gay marriage, the awareness, the fight against hate, and it makes me euphoric inside. 

It's about acceptance, people. It's about not worrying so much about what other people, whether you know them or not, do with their personal lives. It's about a little girl who shouldn't have died, and about all the other souls who have been taunted, beaten, rejected, murdered, and committed suicide because of their sexual orientation. It's about your sons and daughters, everyone in your family, your friends.  

The hate needs to stop. 

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Friday, March 16, 2012

My kid doesn't talk. Fine.

Brandon is 18 months old and doesn't talk. Or, to be more specific, he doesn't speak English, or any other known language. Actually, baby babble is a known language, at least among the 6- to 24-month-old set. 

He says exactly one word, and it's Dad, or "Da" and he uses it interchangeably, regardless of gender, meaning that I am Da, too. Oh wait, he says dog, but without the "g" sound, and bird without the "d". But that's just in the last couple of weeks.

Generally speaking, this is something we should be concerned about, because typically, kids his age are "supposed" to be saying upwards of 10-20 words, and according to some websites, even stringing two words together. 

So am I spazzing out? Nope. So unconcerned am I about this kid's speaking abilities (or lack thereof), that it wasn't until he was about 14 months old that it even occurred to me that, hey, Brandon hasn't really said anything! Has he...???

Our house is so loud and crazy sometimes that's it's hard to tell who is talking, screaming, yelling, or not. With Ethan's constant strings of questions, comments, stories, and other 5-year-old musings, it's easy to feel all filled up on "kid-speak" for the day - by about 1 in the afternoon. And he gets out of school at 12:30. But even if Brandon was an only child, I probably still wouldn't be too concerned about it. Actually, I probably would be more concerned, who am I kidding? The first kid is put through the wringer as far as worry and the marking of milestones goes.

But with Brandon, who is 3rd in line, I'm significantly more relaxed and when I finally started noticing that he wasn't talking, I thought about why I wasn't concerned, and these were the main things that came to mind:

1. He can hear just fine. Hearing impediment is not causing any kind of speech delays.

2. He understands most of what anybody tells him, and follows directions. 

3. He is a great non-verbal communicator. After I realized this, I paid more attention to his non-verbal communications and realized that he almost doesn't need to talk because he is able to relay, through action, pointing, head shakes, and hand gestures pretty much anything he needs. I'm sure there is also our ability to read little kids better, since he's our third, affecting this, too. 

4. He does try to make words, meaning he's not physically incapable of talking. The muscles in his mouth work. He babbles just like any other baby. 

5. According to my 12-year-old niece, "Brandon is like, really smart. {giggle} He like, knows things {giggle giggle}". My niece is super cute and I get what she's saying. He's a pretty quick study. And I'm not saying that to brag, because who really cares if he's smart or not, I'm just listing all of the things that went into my own evaluation. 

So, at Brandon's 18-month well-baby check-up, I told his pediatrician, "I'm not concerned, but you should probably just know that Brandon doesn't talk. As in, he doesn't say any actual words. Except 'Dad'". And then I went down the things listed above and the pediatrician was nodding her head the whole time. When I was done, she said that those things are the things they would be looking for to determine why he isn't talking. And since those are all good, he's most likely just a slow starter on the talking end. Which is fine with me! 

Apparently, there is expressive and receptive language. Expressive language is essentially the ability to produce speech and receptive language is the ability to understand what is communicated and follow commands. To be able to receive language, essentially. And, while the two are equally important, if a small child is up to par on the receptive language, it is not as concerning if they are not as up to par on expressive language, but only up to a certain point. If, by age 2, Brandon is not talking, then we're going to have to look into whether or not he might have something going on. 

His pediatrician also said that children either grow the number of words in their vocabulary on a slow, gradual slope, or stay pretty flat-lined for a while then suddenly shoot up in some language explosion. To show you what I mean, I pulled up Microsoft Paint and drew an extremely professional-quality graph for you. It took hours. You're welcome.

I promise there will be more graphs in my future posts. Even though it was hard to write with that electronic pencil, I feel that the result was extremely professional-looking. So the blue line denotes the gradual accumulation of words that we typically (in my experience) see kids do. The green line is apparently what Brandon is doing: taking his sweet time because he gets most needs met through non-verbal communication and everyone talks for him anyway.

His pediatrician also said that a big part of learning speech is to look at the child when talking to him or her, so they can see your mouth moving and forming words. So reading 7000 books a week is not the only way to pound speech and words into your child. You have to put in some face time.

So this is a good example of why it's important to be aware of the general guidelines for major milestones, but not obsess over them. I've learned to just keep a loose idea of when kids are supposed to do things so we can just make sure something isn't wrong, but kids will start doing their thing when they are ready to, and some do some things way later than others. And like my awesome graph explains, either way is fine!

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Have a baby and I will CLASS IT UP for you.

So I met a 3-month-old newborn today, a day after he was born. Yes, you read that right. No, I am not drunk. Sadly. Anyway. Some good friends had their baby and this kid is a beast. A straight-up beast that was so big, his mama needed a c-section, two doctors pushing/pulling him out of the incision, AND a vacuum to get him out. His thighs are the circumference of my wrist, if not bigger - and I am not bird-boned. He was 10 pounds, 9 ounces. Previously, the largest newborn I had seen was around 9 pounds, 7 ounces. This baby blows that other baby out of the water. His cheeks are wider than the top of his head by about an inch on either side. 

I call him Triple B. He is the cutest, fattest thing I have ever seen and I LOVE him. LOVE him. Not like his Mom does, but damn it if I don't have a special spot imprinted on my heart for him. He is the rock star of all rock stars, and my boys are going to teach him all kinds of shit, like how to bend over in front of a mirror in order to see his butthole the best, how to pull his penis out of the top of his diaper and piss on the floor like Connor did on Triple B's mom and dad's floor (so they're used to it already), and how to dance while naked and singing "shake your peeee-nis." 

But that is not the entire point of this post. I want to show you a photo of what I looked like walking into and through the hospital. 

Before though, a little background. When we had Brandon 1 1/2 years ago, these same friends brought us a giant double bottle of Cook's champagne. You know, the 1.5 liter bottle instead of the wussy 750 ml, regular-sized bottle. Because they know us, and they know that the wussy regular-sized bottle would only be getting us started. 

So, to return the favor, I took them the same thing, from us and another friend who is out of state at nursing school. Except, when I pulled into the parking lot, I did not have a bag for this sexy beast of a bottle. I usually have about 700 reusable cloth bags in the back of the car but Nate had cleaned the back out for his bike to fit last week and the box they are in has not been replaced. 

So I got to walk from the farthest end of the parking lot, and into the hospital and maternity ward with this giant bottle of cheap wine. Because you know, that looks really good. I had only Brandon with me, and I tried to carry him and hide it between him and me, but the thing is so damn big, there was no chance of that happening. It's literally the length of his torso and head. And of course, when we entered the hospital, he decided to shriek and cry for a minute, further calling attention to us and this monstrosity. 

So basically, I classed it up. Because that's how I roll.

And congratulations to the Bs on Triple B. You don't see it right now because you are in such incredible love with that chunk of burning love, but someday probably very soon, you are going to be grateful for that massive bottle of Cook's. You might even just mainline it out of sheer desperation - chugging it will take too long. I understand.


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