"Equis, can you tell me what that is?" Jessica, the Psych Evaluator, points to a picture of a paintbrush.
"A-EE," my son responds. Jessica questions me with her eyes.
"I have no idea…" I mutter. "Oh, wait, I know… he said 'painting.'"
She marks something down on the paper before her. I have no idea if she gave him credit for the question or not, but at the end, Jessica said, "He scored pretty well cognitively. But obviously the speech is going to bring his score down."
I nodded my head and smiled, but it pained me that what we've just experienced is exactly the type of guessing that I do daily with Equis' language.
A little over a year ago, I wrote about how Equis had zero meaningful words
and needed to begin speech therapy. I was heartbroken at the time. Since then, I've learned that there was nothing I did wrong to affect Equis' speech--he simply has low mouth muscle tone and occasional issues with his hearing
--but it still royally sucks.
Every day is a battle to communicate with my son. What sounds like "moon" is really "balloon" and what sounds like "muck" is really "milk." Beyond that, there are many words that I still just can't figure out, and it's frustrating for the both of us when I can't understand him.
I have to say, though, I'm proud of my two-year-old for how hard he is working to form words. His speech therapist says he knows at least 200 words but now it's a matter of getting him to say them clearly and make sentences out of them. We'll keep battling.
Do you think you can win the Mom of the Year award?
There are all kinds of ways moms have earned this title, such as accidentally locking an infant in the car or being the "Yes" Mom at Disney World.
Today, I'm a Mom of the Year!
A couple weeks ago, Meredith of The Mom of the Year asked me to participate in her "Mom of the Year
" series. Of course, I was delighted to say "Yes" to my first guest post ever! Woot!
At the same time, however, I was terrified because all I could think about were the many mistakes I've made that make me feel like a terrible mom--like that time I accidentally dropped my son on the floor when he was only three days old. Yeah, I did that. Don't worry, he's fine.
I tried to think of more positive things. Really, I did, but I just kept being drawn to the one thing that I've been struggling with recently--my anger that arises from my depression. From there, my post for Mom of the Year was born. Check out my "Mom of the Year for a Frightening Reason," guest post and please leave me some comment love! Thanks, folks.
Is it just me or are you scared of the playground too? I dread going to the park.
Before, all I worried about when I went to the playground was that my son would fall from some high place and break his neck. Now, the structures don't terrify me so much since Equis learned how to navigate those large gaps in the ladders and knows not to try to slide down the fireman's pole.
Instead, I'm scared to pieces by kids. Yes, kids!
Without fail, there are mean kids who swat at my little boy as if he were an annoying fly getting in their way. Although he is big for his age, Equis is still small compared to some of these children, and he's easily pushed around. Kids will shove him to the side while he's trying to go down the slide and tell him to go away when he's fascinated by their ball.
I find myself standing up for my kids at least once or twice on every trip to the playground, saying,
- "Don't you dare push my son!"
- "We came to the park to play not to fight!"
- "Give him his toy back!"
Yesterday, two little boys took my stepson's ball and refused to let him play with them. They ran around him and away from him and laughed at him. One boy pushed him twice, tried to grab him by the neck and then ripped off his jacket and started singing, "Nah nah nah nah nah!" That was it for me. My sister's boyfriend grabbed the jacket and my sister told those kids they were being nasty.
Worse yet, the parent of these kids did nothing but watch! It's frustrating beyond belief when the mean kids' parents stand idly by while their children taunt mine. I don't get it. In the same way that I stand up for my kids, I also stand up for other kids when I see mine doing something wrong. Why don't other parents do the same?
Are they just being lazy or are they tired of trying to control their kid? I don't know the answer, but it upsets me. As parents, it's our responsibility to teach our children to be kind to others and how to solve problems in a way that is respectful and considerate of everyone.
I'm tired of having to leave the playground because of mean kids and apathetic parents. Do your kids get pushed around at the playground too? How do you respond?
What is your favorite writing quote?
I printed out an internet page detailing the steps of a partial-birth abortion, still legal then, complete with drawn pictures of the operation, and tacked it onto a wall in the class lounge one Fall morning of my Sophomore year in High School.
The pictures showed a fetus being pulled halfway through a woman's birth canal and scissors jamming into the base of the skull to create a hole through which the brain could be suctioned.
At lunchtime, I discovered that the paper had been removed, having caused a mini-uproar amongst my classmates.
“Xiomara, why would you put that up on the wall?” Beth,* a girl who rarely spoke to me, asked me from her seat on the cushioned bench. Beneath the anger, her green eyes showed genuine confusion.
“I just want people to know the truth about abortion. How it's the taking of a life.”
“Those pictures are disgusting. The wall isn't for stuff like that. It's for announcements.”
“Well, it's my announcement,” I shrugged. “Everyone asks me why I'm pro-life, and that's why... because it's horrible. People should know what's it's like before saying they think it's okay.”
“So you don't believe a woman should have the right to have an abortion?”
“I think a woman can do whatever she wants, but I don't think abortion is the right choice.”
“What if you were raped?” another classmate interjected. “Would you have the baby?”
“Yes, and I'd love him or her.”
Beth and the others looked at me as if I had just crapped on the carpet. “That's crazy.”
“I'm just saying, so like, okay, I believe God gave everyone the freedom to make their own choices. I, personally, would never choose to have an abortion no matter the circumstances. God has a purpose for that child's life.” With that, I walked away from the girls seated around the Lounge with their mouths agape, for dramatic effect.
On the train ride home that day, I told my best friend, “I don't know why they got so mad. I just posted pictures of the truth, and they freaked out. It was so annoying.”
“I think Beth had an abortion two years ago,” Aurora answered.
“That's so young!” I said, astounded Beth wasn't a virgin like us. “Was she raped?”
“I don't know. I think he was her boyfriend, but that might be why she was so upset…”
*Name has been changed.
At first, after that incident, I felt angry that I'd been attacked for my beliefs.
I'd grown up in a Pentecostal church and had been told my whole life that abortion was evil. Furthermore, I felt as if I was just following the command to share my faith with others.
After speaking with my best friend, though, I felt terrible for what I'd done. She helped me to realize that I'd ambushed these young women first, and they were just reacting to my callousness.
Even though I felt that people should know the facts about partial birth abortion, I certainly didn't approach the topic in a sensitive manner.
When I look back on the events of the day, I imagine what it must feel like to be chided for something I did that I may not have been proud of but found necessary. I feel upset with myself for putting Beth in such a harrowing position, and I want to say, "I'm sorry."
Friends who have asked me whether or not they should have an abortion have gotten the same response: "It's your choice. Whatever you decide, I'll support you."
It may baffle many of the people I've grown up around, but I would wholeheartedly define myself as pro-choice now. When I was pregnant with Equis, the thought of having an abortion definitely fluttered around in my mind, but I ultimately knew that choice wasn't for me. I wanted to have my baby even though I wasn't financially set up or even in a relationship with his father. However, to say that I would never have an abortion, no matter the circumstances, would be false. I don't know that for sure. I really don't know what I would do if my life were in danger, for example. Sacrifice my life for my baby? Or sacrifice my baby's life for mine?
Ultimately, it doesn't matter what I would personally do when it comes to other people. I believe it is a woman's right to choose to do what she thinks is best for her life and with her body. It's not my place to decide for her. It's not my place to judge.
I'm so pleased to introduce my blogger friend Lillian Connelly of It's A Dome Life. Lillian is a mother to a beautiful daughter, a fantastic artist and an all-around awesome person. She shares her views on life and parenting in a way that I find refreshingly honest and fun. Her recent series "Examining the Creative Mind" allows us to delve into the minds of creative folk through inspiring interviews. Please leave some comment love for Lillian after reading her wonderful guest post about the labels that mothers think we must fit into.
When my daughter was born I was busy like all new moms are. There were many sleepless nights and sleepless days. I read many books about babies and being a mom, and I started to wonder about my identity. Was I a stay at home mom? Was I a helicopter parent? Was I this kind of parent? Was I that kind?
I felt a real need to define myself. To define motherhood. My definition seemed to change with each passing week. I never fully fit in with any parenting group. I wasn’t parenting with any particular theory in mind. I just did what worked and stopped doing what didn’t. I couldn’t really define myself, or motherhood.
I imagine many parents don’t fit neatly into the categories available to us, but we all seem to want to. It’s just easier to be something specific than to be all things, and not all things, all at the same time. I think this is the hardest for new parents to figure out. We want to know where we fit into the bigger picture. We want an easy way to introduce ourselves to people. We want an answer to the question: Who am I now?
I’m an artist. More specifically, I am a painter. Over the past two years I have become extremely productive. The combination of feeling creative (I mean, I created a person. How amazing is that?) and of having limited time has really forced me to prioritize how I spend my days and what I put my energy into. I’ve also started blogging. I am writing and painting and basically doing everything I can to avoid folding laundry and washing dishes. I’m a mother. I’m a wife. I’m a daughter. I am so many things.
The thing about becoming a parent is it sort of strips away parts of your old life. In the beginning you are so focused on caring for your child that you lose perspective on other aspects of your life and on your relationship to the outside world in general. After a while you start to figure out your place in all of these new roles and societal expectations. You fail and succeed and fail again. It’s hard to find stable footing.
Parenting is like standing up on a roller coaster. You think you might fall off at any moment. You grow apart from friends, make new ones. Stop working. Start working. Spend all of your money on organic food, or diapers, or educational toys. You stop caring so much about your own appearance, or health, or happiness. Things change faster than you can wrap your mind around. It’s living in a constant state of flux and surprise.
I feel like I am constantly trying to reinvent myself. At the same time I want the world to still see me. I love being a mother, but I want people to know that the person I was before I had my daughter is still in here. I still have hopes and dreams and career goals. I want to be seen as a whole person. I don’t want to be only one thing when I am many. It’s not an accurate description of my contribution to say I am only a mother or only an artist...or only a wife. I’m not “only” anything. I can’t be defined just by my parenting, my work, or my marital status.
I found myself wondering, the other day, if I was now a work at home mom. I am selling art and blogging. I am making a modest income. I seem to get busier and busier with each passing day. Have I shifted from a Stay At Home Mom to a Work At Home Mom? Does it matter? Does it change my status in the world? Does it change who I am?
Then, this morning, I realized I was tired of trying to define myself as one thing or another.
What does it matter anyway? Does anybody care if I call myself one type of mom or another? Probably not. Does it change the way I take care of my child, my home, my community? Nope. It’s just a label. A self-imposed label. I don’t have to reinvent myself. I just have to be who I am. I don’t have to fit into a box that was designed by someone else. I get to design my own box. I get to create my own labels. I get to be me. All of me.
So, I’ve decided to stop trying to define my journey. This is my life. I wake up every morning and I paint side by side with my daughter. I teach her right from wrong. I love her with all of my heart. That’s the only thing that matters really. Whether people choose to see me as one type of mother or another has no bearing on the type of mom I really am. How people define me has no bearing on whether or not I make art. It has no bearing on the life I choose to live. My life is a journey and my energy is finite. I won’t waste any more time worrying about which category I am in. I just want to live with an open heart and with open eyes. I just want to be me.
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I remember crying over my Middle School report card. I'd gotten a B for Effort but another C for Skill in Gym class. I never understood why we we were graded with letter grades instead of Pass/Fail, and no one there took the time to understand why I lacked so much in the Sports Skills area.
First of all, the only sport I was good at was Martial Arts because my dad taught me his form of Jujitsu. He was not, however, a follower of America's top three favorite sports--football, baseball and basketball--so I was not exposed to them at home.
Secondly, in Elementary Public School, our gym class often consisted of running around the gym or the playground, dancing to YMCA, and playing Dodgeball. I never learned how to actually play sports because the teacher usually separated the boys from the girls so that the boys played basketball together while the girls played jump rope.
I hated playing jump rope. I was terrible at it.
"We don't do anything in Gym! Can I stay here?" I remember begging my fifth grade teacher, and she'd let me help her to clean up the classroom and set up the next activity. I treasured these one-on-one moments with my teacher.
Then, I was accepted into an independent private school where the kids had practiced various sports since they were in Kindergarten. In seventh grade, I was introduced to sports I had never heard of. Floor Hockey? What in the world was that?
I remember feeling extremely lost when it came to soccer, softball, volleyball and basketball. I didn't know the rules like the other kids did, never mind the fact that I had awful hand-eye coordination. It was heartbreaking to me because I was not only an outsider as a Puerto Rican
from a low-income family but also because I couldn't play sports. I dreaded going to Gym class and thought it a waste of time.
It's no surprise then that I didn't follow organized sports throughout most of my young adult life. What may surprise you is that a four year old taught me to love baseball.
Yes, a four year old who I babysat in college. He was an avid follower of the Mets just like his dad and older brother.
His world revolved around baseball. We'd play makeshift baseball in his large living room, we created baseball cards using paper and markers, we studied a book of stadiums, we played baseball on his Xbox and we watched Mets games on end.
Until then, I'd only been the "I like the Yankees because my grandpa likes the Yankees" kind of sports fan. But this little boy explained to me what a ball and a strike was, what it meant to hit a grand slam and who played what position. It still amazes me that a kid taught me what adults couldn't--to find the joy in sports.
As for my newfound love of basketball and the New York Knicks, I can thank my boyfriend
for that, and I'm glad to say that we are exposing our sons to sports in a way that I never was. I want them to learn from early on the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship, and maybe by the time they're old enough to play organized sports, they won't feel as lost as I did. I Want to Know:
- Did you like sports as a kid? Were you any good at it?
- Do your children play sports? Do you see sports benefiting them?
This post is linked to Six Word Saturday.
Guess what, folks? As of today, I've written 108 blog posts this year, and I am definitely getting writer's burn out.
I am so thankful to BlogHer for hosting NaBloPoMo
, which has kept me writing every single day for the past three months. If you want to push yourself to write more, I'd definitely recommend you check out May's NaBloPoMo challenge, which is "Comfort."
As for me, though, I think it's time for me to take a rest.
Have no fear! By take a rest, I simply mean, space my posts out more. After all, I love writing and sharing this space with you!
Thank you for all of your support. Do you ever feel burnt out? What do you do to get back up and running?
LINK UP YOUR POSTS BELOW!
Five years ago, I shook Mayor Bloomberg's hand as he handed me my undergraduate diploma.
Just two years later, I gave birth to my beautiful son Equis, and the idea of going back to school seemed unlikely. As a stay-at-home mom, I am undeniably busy, and given my unemployment, I could afford to take just two Memoir classes through Gotham Writers Workshop
Having to stop taking courses really upset me, which is why I'm grateful to have found Coursera (Thanks, Melissa!). Coursera is a company that partners with top universities worldwide to offer free online courses to anyone and everyone. Let me repeat that: Coursera offers free online courses from top universities like Duke, Columbia, Stanford, Brown and John Hopkins, to anyone who wants to further their education.
I was so wowed by the course offerings I signed up for eight classes right away:
- Writing II: Rhetorical Composing - The Ohio State University
- Sports and Society - Duke University
- Child Nutrition and Cooking - Stanford University
- The Camera Never Lies - University of London International Programmes
- The Fiction of Relationship - Brown University
- Children Acquiring Literacy Naturally - University of California, Santa Cruz
- Comic Books and Graphic Novels - University of Colorado Boulder
- Videogames and Learning - University of Wisconsin-Madison
As you can see from my course selection, courses are offered in various fields of study.
Check out the site to explore courses
in the arts, sciences, business/economics, law, food and nutrition, math, computer science and education, in various languages.
I started my first class, Rhetorical Writing, last week, and I couldn't be more excited about this experience. I am literally interacting with students from all over the world, including Europe, America and Asia. I want you to join me on this amazing experience.
Besides loving the fact that the courses are free, I also love that they are online because I don't have to find a babysitter or travel in order to attend them!
I'm inviting you to visit Coursera.org, and sign up for a course that interests you. And, no, this post is not sponsored. I just so love this program, I want to share it with you all! I Want to Know:
- Did you check out Coursera? Tell me below if you signed up for any courses!
- When was the last time you took an academic course? Was it online or in-person?
- What did you/do you love most about school?
I'm writing a post a day this April with BlogHer's NaBloPoMo.