Tag Archives: momaste

Butts and Privates in Art, or, the Joy of Visiting a Museum With My Child

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Over the weekend, I took my six year old daughter to the Museum of Fine Art. She wanted to go on a mother/daughter outing and who was I to argue when she suggested one of my happy places.

I allowed her to lead me through the galleries. She pulled me along at just under breakneck speed, and I surrendered to the experience of viewing the museum from her perspective.

Paintings and photographs swirled past us, everything melding into a sort of impressionistic blur.

Every once in a while she would stop to admire something.  A portrait of a baby.  A painting of a sunset.  A sculpture of a dog.

We found ourselves in a replica of a 14th century chapel. My child stopped short and gasped at the enormous cross on the wall, and the strange sensation of being in a small room of its own within the giant museum.

We are not religious people and my kids have almost never been to church. But my daughter has a weird fascination with Jesus, maybe because he’s like a celebrity baby and she loves babies. Anyway, there was a serene and sacred vibe in the chapel. We whispered to one another to look at this and look at that.

There were some relics in a glass case. My daughter pointed to a small statue of the Virgin Mary nursing baby Jesus. “Look Mama!”

It was indeed a sweet little artifact and we spent a moment admiring the tenderness of the mother and child bond.  I snapped a pic with my phone at Emily’s command.  As we wandered through the rest of that particular gallery, I noticed several portraits of the Blessed Mother nursing Jesus.  I pointed these out to Emily who found them charming.  She also enjoyed the bare butts.  In one, Jesus was full frontal and she gasped, “OMG Mama, I just saw the private!”

“Yes, Dear,” I said indulgently.  “There are a lot of butts and privates in art. It’s sort of a thing.” So for the rest of our visit, she pointed and laughed at butts and privates.  I felt like I had sort of done my part at educating her on art, reinforcing the normalcy of breastfeeding in everyday culture, and joyfully normalizing all different body types (including their privates) without any shame.

Either that or I was totally irreverent and set a really bad example.

Could go either way I suppose.

As we got into the car to drive home, I asked Em if she had a good day.  “Oh Mama, it was the best day ever,” she replied.  I was somewhat surprised that our little jaunt to an art museum was her best day ever, but that’s cool.

I asked her what she had learned about art.  “I learned that there are lots of butts and privates in art,” she stated.  Gotta hand it to my kid, she pays attention.  I guess our next lesson will be about the reasons behind all the nudity in art (pun intended).

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the Unbearable “Joy” of Holiday Shit Storms

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There is nothing like a holiday, and co-occuring school vacation, that validates my ineptitude- not just at motherhood but at this entire thing called life.

If you’re going to get all judgey-wudgey with me and tell me to shift my perspective and appreciate the precious moments, please stop reading and go away now, for the love of all that is holy.  I.  Can’t.  Even.  I intend to rant a little.  Or a lot.

I’m exhausted from this time of rest and relaxation, and I go back to work to a week of back to back clients with whom I have to play catch up, and hear about all of their holiday woes and really valid trauma reactions to stuff.  To be completely honest, I’ve been anxious about going back to work since about a week before my vacation even started, which kinda’ harshes the holiday buzz.  So, if you’d humor me, I’ll take a couple minutes to talk about MY feelings about the holidays, motherhood, and my consummate failure as a human being.

First of all, the house is a disaster zone.  I know, I know.  I’m not supposed to worry about the state of the house, but I do.  My children have eight grandparents because my family is crazy and blended several times over.  I’ll give you a second to let that sink in.  EIGHT grandparents.

Now imagine the influx of stuff they get from said eight grands.  You there?  Good.  Now imagine all that stuff dumped and scattered throughout your entire small home.

Footnote:  You can’t ask them to *not* get stuff for the kids because that engenders all kinds of offense and hurt feelings.  Been there, done that.

I have crates and bins and dividers and shelves and all of the home goods crap that is supposed to make life neat and organized.  You know what?  None of it does a bit of good. I wander the house picking up toys and clothes and dishes, and as soon as I put away one thing, ten other things appear in its place.  The mess makes my anxiety flare and spin inside of me like a Hawaiian fire dancer.

I don’t have cute anxiety.  I have cranky, prickly, ragey, sweary anxiety.  It’s a thing.  Google it.

Some people, like my darling husband, have an impressively high threshold for chaos, disorganization, and clutter.

I don’t.

After ten years of marriage, he sort of understands that when I get like this, he should not take it personally, maybe clear the kids out of the way for a little bit, and bring home a bottle of wine.

He hasn’t seemed to figure out that firing up the vacuum or organizing anything within his reach would go a long way toward deescalating my fervor.  That is, he doesn’t get it until I’m screaming and crying about it. . .  because that’s the point it gets to.  Not all the time, but once in a while and more often during the holidays than I would like to admit.  It makes me feel really ashamed, then depressed I can’t get it the fuck together.

Then, there are the children.  My sweet, happy, playful children who become maniacal, aggressive, and very loud lunatics when their schedule is upended.  Rather, I should say my nine year old Jack has this low threshold for change, is easily overstimulated, and sets off my typically placid five year old, Emily.  Jack has meltdowns that escalate really fast and involve a lot of sensory seeking in the form of yelling, pushing, and crying.

If you know me, or can relate to any of this whatsoever, you know my first thought:  I created this monster and it is my fault he is unhappy because he inherited my anxiety and depression and it is just a matter of time until I’m being judged by another therapist just like myself and my kid has to go on medication because I’m a complete failure as a mom and have no idea how to parent my kid.  It’s science.

And yes, I know that sentence needed some punctuation, but that is how my mind works.

Part of the stress for me, and probably also for my kids, is that with such a big and blended family, there are a shit ton of family parties, get togethers, and visits to be made.  In a perfect world I would really enjoy seeing all of these people hither and yonder and would feel awesome about reconnecting and celebrating with them.

Truthfully, I do enjoy it, but it’s also stressful, draining, and unnerving.  It seems like more proof I’m a complete asshat of a person.  While I enjoy seeing people, it also makes me feel guilty that I haven’t seen more of them, that I haven’t made more of an effort of helping my children get to know them.  It is more fuel for anxiety and self depreciation.

And while I know I might be a bit harsh on myself, it also seems there’s a lot of evidence  I suck at life.

I DO realize it’s not all bad.  And trust me, I’m grateful, despite how this post is making me sound (more proof?).  We had some truly happy moments over the break.  We laughed.  I actually napped a few times!  My husband got me everything on my holiday wish list and the kids were delighted and occupied with their gifts.  I adore my family, and they fill to overflowing with love, which I believe is the most important thing in life.  We have it all.

So what is it about the times of loud chaos that so upends my joy?

It’s a rhetorical question, folks.  I don’t actually have an answer, which sometimes I’m okay with, and other times cranks up the hurdy gurdy of nerves and makes me want to run away with the circus.   But let’s face it, I’m terrified of horses and clowns.  Like actually phobic of them.  So, the circus is probably not a viable option.

There’s no escape.

There’s really only embracing the uncomfortable, nervy sadness and frustration along with the sense of being completely bowled over by living.  It’s tough to get my arms around, and it wiggles while I try to hold it.

Look, I could tie this post up by refocusing on a tender moment and telling you it’s all good in the end.  I really could do that, and I could probably mean it.  But it seems like that would be disingenuous.  It doesn’t seem like it would be totally helpful to ignore the tough times when they really feel so weighted, because if I ignore them, they might subtly start to pull me down, hold me under the surface.

I also feel it’s important to acknowledge “the most wonderful time of the year” is really freaking difficult for a lot of us out here.  The commercials and songs tell us we are supposed to feel and act a very specific way during the holidays, and these unrealistic images and expectations create tremendous cognitive dissonance for those who can’t understand why we don’t “get it.”

Sometimes stuff is just hard and heavy to hold onto.  I have to believe that’s okay and it doesn’t make me a bad person; at least not all the time.

Your Daughter Thinks You’re Beautiful

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In the summer I am way too hot and frazzled to do much with my hair.  Up it goes into a lazy ponytail or sloppy bun.  We don’t have central air conditioning so, I do not usually have a lovely blow-dried coif from about May to October because it just makes me too darn sweaty.  And frizzy.

But on this one morning, I was wearing a lovely dress.  I’d washed my long, blonde tresses and it was cool enough that I gave it a good, round-brushed, blow-out.

IMG_8842Emily approached the bathroom door as I was about to scoop all my hair off my neck and into an elastic.

“Oooohhh, Mama,” she gasped.  “Just yeave your hair yong.  You yook just yike my Baahbee doll.”

Yes.  My daughter has Barbie dolls.  And she adores them.  And she thinks they are all kinds of beautiful.

“Baahbee even has bwuue eyes yike you, Mama.”

It was her way of telling me she thought I looked beautiful.

And to her, I am beautiful.

She doesn’t know I am 35 pounds overweight.

She doesn’t notice the bags under my eyes.  Eyes that are also starting to sag and wrinkle.

She doesn’t realize or care that my face is riddled with adult acne.

She doesn’t mind that my boobs hang down to my arm pits, or that sometimes I forget to shave.

To her, I am silky and creamy, safe and warm, soft and inviting.

To her, “beauty” is a place that is squishy but strong, fun but predictable.

We can sit here and debate about why it is “wrong” for little girls to think Barbie is pretty.  We can talk about standards for “beauty” and how Barbie gives women a bad rap.  I feel you.  I do.  If you know me at all, and if you have read any of my posts about self acceptance, you know I do not subscribe to “traditional” ideals of cosmetic loveliness, and how much I despise the diet industry and how it preys on vulnerable women.

I’m not going to lie.  I’ve been compared to Barbie before, and I get a little lift from it.  One time someone even told me that if I were a food, I would be a Barbie cake.  Whatever that means.

Maybe that is wrong and embarrassing and bad.  I don’t know.  But I’m almost six feet tall, have blond hair and blue eyes, and up until the last decade was skinny with big boobs.

I also struggled with huge issues around my body image and self esteem.  But that was not because of Barbie.  That was some inner struggle that had way more facets than a simple doll could craft.  There are, I am aware, many who would like to blame the ills of society on Barbie, but I think that oversimplifies things.

Barbie was one of my favorite toys.  I spent hours dressing and primping her for fancy dinner dates or for a casual walk with her doggie.  This didn’t make me a bad person, nor did it force me to believe that anyone who did not look like Barbie was not worthwhile.

But here’s the thing:  I was also raised to consider the beauty of classical music, nature, and theater.  I was taken to art museums and exposed to all manner of human form and figure.  I plan on raising my children in the same way, and showing them that beauty comes in many more shapes and sizes than 36-24-26.  Or whatever that formula is.  I don’t do numbers.

We have the power to teach our daughters and sons what beauty is.

To raise them with a healthy sense of self, a strong will, and an appreciation for all the things their bodies can do.

To teach them that beauty has to do with acceptance of self and others, openness, and kindness.

So on that day, I left my hair “yong” per Emily’s wishes.  I kept it down all day and flew high on the compliment my little girl had bestowed upon me.

It feels good to know my daughter thinks I’m beautiful, despite my many, many flaws inside and out.

That’s love.

And I bet your daughter, or son, thinks you are beautiful too.