Race Relations

“Why don’t you take the kids out to the car, and I’ll be out in just a minute,” I said to Austin. I looked at the clock. It’s later than I intended to be getting into the car, but we’re not late late yet. No big deal.

I fumble around the kitchen for my phone, put on my coat, and hop into the passenger seat. I turn back to confirm that the kids are buckled up, and notice tears on Jordan’s cheeks.

“What’s wrong, buddy?” I ask.

“It was Andrew!” he shouts.

Andrew is sitting behind me, so I twist around further in order to face him. “What’s going on?”

Andrew is quiet for a moment, and looks embarrassed. When he speaks, it’s in his very quiet I-know-I-did-something-wrong voice.

“I said some things to Jordan that were racist.”

I do a doubletake, and sputter, “What? You did what?”

I turn to Austin and say, more quietly, “You heard that, right? That wasn’t my imagination?”

“He must have meant something else,” says Austin, “but I heard it, too.”

“Andrew, what did you mean?” I ask.

“I said some things to Jordan that were racist, but they really weren’t racist,” he answers.

Austin and I exchange a look. Yeah, that’s really what he just said. They had talked about Martin Luther King Jr. at school, and Andrew had asked me some questions a few days earlier. But what could he have possibly said? And really, what racist comment could he have made that would upset Jordan?

“Like what?” I ask.

“Well, like, I told him that it was a race to see who could buckle up first, but it really wasn’t.”

Oh.

“Well, it’s not nice to tease Jordan. You know he needs help to buckle up.”

Andrew said some things to Jordan that were races, but they really weren’t races.

An Open Letter to Matt Moore

By now, you’ve probably seen the story about Matt Moore, a Christian blogger who was spotted on the gay hookup app Grindr after he wrote about his choice to no longer engage in sexual behavior because he believes sexual behavior between two people of the same sex is sinful. Much of the coverage has been focused on the hypocrisy of his public writing versus his private actions, and I think some of that coverage has been unfair. Mostly he’s been identified as a member of the “ex-gay” movement, which seems at least factually incorrect. If you’d like to read up on this story, I suggest beginning with Zinnia Jones’ piece about it, since that’s where the recent story begins.

Dear Matt,

I’m not sure exactly where to begin. I don’t want this letter to seem hurtful. Honestly, I watched the video you posted to youtube last night, and looked at your twitter feed, and my impression is that you’re a person who’s hurting an awful lot right now. I don’t want to add to that, but there’s some more that needs to be said, and I don’t see a lot of people saying it. I prefer getting the harder stuff out of the way first, so that’s where I’ll begin. If you read this, the stuff at the end is more pleasant than the beginning. So at least there’s that.

I’m glad that you’ve spoken out about being mislabeled as an “ex-gay.” You, and I, and just about everyone out there knows that’s just a hurtful fiction. It’s snake oil, and it’s being pushed on vulnerable kids and young adults, sold to their scared families. It makes their lives more difficult, and every year it drives some gay kids to take their own lives before they’ve even begun.

Here’s the tough part, though. What you’re doing is just as hurtful. Unlike the “ex-gay” folks, you aren’t lying about it. And I don’t think you intend to hurt them, so if we’re comparing morality, you’re a lot better than the “ex-gay” charlatans. But the dead teenagers are just as dead, Matt. And your writing contributes to a social structure that devalues those kids, tells them they are less than everyone else. This is why some of the coverage of your story has seemed gleeful — lots of folks feel that by discrediting you, young lives are saved. A confused mother who reads your writing isn’t going to understand the nuanced difference between “not acting on homosexual feelings” and “not being gay anymore.” She’s going to read your posts and decide that if her gay kid just works hard enough, just loves God enough, he can live the life she wants him to live. And that kid loves his mother, and he probably loves his church, and being gay is cloaked in mystery and fear for him, so he’s going to try his hardest. And he’s going to fail. Of course he’s going to fail! You’re telling him that he needs to live his entire life alone, that he must never know love. And it’s going to make him feel like the reason he failed is because he just didn’t love God enough. And if he just doesn’t love God enough, doesn’t that reflect on his value as a person, within a social/religious structure that places loving God at the very top of its priorities? It’s like Cinderella going to the ball. Her sisters get to go, and so does she. She just has to pick all of those lentils out of the ashes first. An impossible task, designed to let her know how much less value she has as a person. But gay teenagers can’t talk to birds, so they have to do it all alone.

Unavoidable in all this talk is the idea that love is sin. That somehow, the very best of us is the very worst. I’m not religious anymore, but I try to be a good person. I have varying degrees of success, like anyone else. My ten-year relationship with my husband, though filled with compromises (like any relationship), is not a compromise. It is the very best of me. My marriage and my children are what I have to show for my life, really. They aren’t asterisks — “Mark is a great guy. Too bad about that gay marriage and the children he and his husband raised in sin together.” But that’s what you’re saying, isn’t it?

All right. If you’ve gotten this far, I’m done with the tough part, and can move onto the pleasant part.

I’d like to invite you to come to Massachusetts and spend a day with my family. You certainly won’t see a perfect family. I’ll try to clean up, but my house will still look like a mess. I’ll vacuum, but you’ll be brushing dog hair off your clothes for days after you visit. My kids are sweet, but they will cry about ridiculous things, and probably fight with each other, and each of them will have at least one tantrum. They can’t put on a show for guests. We are who we are. I’ll make dinner, and it’ll be fine, but it won’t win any awards. What it lacks in quality, I’ll at least try to make up for in quantity. You won’t go hungry.

After dinner, you’ll finally get a moment of peace. Austin and I will put the kids to bed — there will almost certainly be some more screaming at this point — and then the house will be quiet. We can go into the living room — I suggest keeping your shoes on, because legos are hazardous — and have a chat. Austin and I are pretty much open books, and we’d be happy to tell you just about anything you’d like to know about our life. We’ve had plenty of practice talking about our lives with relative strangers during the adoption process.

When you leave, I’d like you to take some time to think about my family. Once you’ve done that, I’d ask you to identify the parts of my life that you think make God unhappy, and the parts of my life — if you can find any — that you think make God happy. No tricks, no gotcha.

It’s an open invitation, Matt. No time limit. I can probably even convince Austin to use some of his frequent flier miles for you, if you need. We don’t use them for very much these days.

Sincerely,

Mark

Comfort Food

Holiday Dinner

On Saturday morning, the boys had waffles for breakfast. Andrew really likes pancakes and waffles, in part because we let him practice using a knife. Neither of the boys has great fine motor control, so practicing with a knife is a lot of work for him, and it just doesn’t always go the way he wants.

This was especially the case with his waffles.

I’m not entirely sure how it happened. I know that I couldn’t reproduce it if you gave me a hundred waffles on which to try. Before Andrew managed to take a single bite of his waffle, before any portion of it was cut from the whole, his waffle was somehow airborne. It flipped end over end, almost in slow motion, and plummeted toward the floor.

It did not hit the floor, of course, because the world’s happiest dog caught it and swallowed it in one triumphant gulp. She waits under the table at every meal, because she is no fool. She knows where food falls. But a whole waffle? This was no accident. Buffy was certain that Andrew had given her the greatest gift a child can give to a dog.

So the humans are all silent for a moment, taken aback by the sight of a flying waffle. But Buffy knows what you do when someone does something nice for you, so she trots over to Andrew to thank him. Her tail is wagging so far from side to side that her entire back half is waving with it, and she rests her head on his lap.

Part of Andrew knows that this is funny. But another part of him is certain that he has LOST HIS WAFFLE FOREVER. He’s trying to hold back his tears, but it’s a struggle. There’s a sharp intake of air after every word.

“I <gasp!> know <gasp!> that <gasp!> you <gasp!> didn’t <gasp!> mean <gasp!> to <gasp!> take <gasp!> my <gasp!> waffle, <gasp!> Buffy! But <gasp!> I <gasp!> really <gasp!> wanted <gasp!> to <gasp!> eat <gasp!> that.”

Once Austin and I were able to stop laughing long enough to reassure Andrew that we would replace the waffle, everything returned to normal pretty quickly. But Buffy, who usually thinks Jordan is a more reliable source of food, has been standing a lot closer to Andrew at meals now.

Food can still be sort of fraught for my kids. It’s better now than it used to be. Usually it’s safe to mention food in front of Jordan these days. A couple of years ago, if you mentioned food outside of mealtime — “I think I’ll make spaghetti for supper today” or “What’s your favorite food?” — it was likely to trigger epic crying and screaming. The idea of food was just too much. Too powerful.

It still holds a certain power. Last week, I had a call from the psychologist at Andrew’s school. He had been late getting to class a couple of days in a row, because he was in the cafeteria eating breakfast.

A few times this year, Andrew has taken it upon himself to buy breakfast after I take him to school. His lunch money is on an account with the school, so if he buys two meals instead of one, we won’t notice until he runs out of money sooner than we expect.

The first time he started buying breakfast, it was a conversation.

“Are you hungry when you get to school? You have breakfast at home every morning, and you bring a snack to have in the morning.”

No, not hungry.

“Would you rather have breakfast at school instead of at home?”

No, he hates the idea of waiting until he’s at school to eat.

“Ok, so then you’ll eat breakfast at home, and not at school. You really don’t need to buy breakfast at school.”

The second time he started eating breakfast at school, we had the same conversation. Not hungry, not willing to wait for breakfast. Great, then stop buying breakfast. We eat when we’re hungry. If you’re hungry, let me know, and we’ll get you more food.

The third time he started buying breakfast, he realized he could eat slowly, and then saunter into class fifteen minutes late. It’s hard to blame the teachers in the cafeteria for letting him be late. They assume, and I suspect it’s usually a good assumption, that kids who are buying breakfast probably need that breakfast.

So this time I spoke to the teachers in the cafeteria. They had suspected something was unusual — most kids buy breakfast more regularly than my son, and most of them don’t wait until their parents are out of sight to buy it. I had kind of hoped that it was something he’d be able to manage — Dad told me not to buy breakfast, so I won’t buy breakfast. — but it looks like he needs some adult assistance to stop himself.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to a Bar Mitzvah for one of Austin’s cousins. We had a good time, and it’s always nice to see Austin’s extended family, who are fantastic. But despite warnings that it was almost time to leave, both kids were in tears as we went out the doors. Jordan was crying because … well, because there was a transition, and we always cry at transitions.

Andrew, though, was upset about two things:

  1. Austin and I were irresponsible parents, and we had let him eat too much, and now his tummy hurt.
  2. Austin and I also were mean parents, and would not let him have any more ice cream.

I tried to explain that those were really mutually exclusive things to be upset about, but you can imagine that kind of argument doesn’t have much weight.

On the Passing of Time

My Love

About a week from now, Austin and I will be celebrating our tenth anniversary. (Our before-we-could-get-married anniversary, that is.) Well, if I’m honest, we probably won’t be celebrating. If we manage to remember that it’s our anniversary (which we haven’t managed to do even once yet!) we’ll be too busy recuperating from a weekend with a Bar Mitzvah in Austin’s family and a wedding in my family. At least it’s a long weekend.

We’re not big on celebrations, though. Every time I go to a wedding, I find myself thinking, “This is nice. I’m glad we didn’t do this.” I’ve sometimes wondered if my self-consciousness is a product of internalized homophobia. Austin and I don’t kiss in public, or hold hands. Not like it’s a rule or anything. If he’s been on a long trip, I’ll hug him at the airport. But we’re certainly not showy.

And that’s fine. I come from a family that doesn’t show emotion. My best friend recently told me how uncomfortable she was at my grandfather’s funeral. My family sat, pretty stone-faced, and she felt like a professional mourner, wailing at the back of the church. A few folks who have married into my family have expressed similar sentiments, so I know she’s not alone. But Austin has never said it. I think we’re the same that way.

I have occasionally felt a little jealous of people who wear their emotions on their sleeves. Couples who are affectionate in a genuine way in public. Maybe jealous is too strong of a word, and curious would be more appropriate. I’ve wondered what it would be like to be that kind of person.

Austin and I don’t have a ton of gay friends, at least not any that we see regularly. I have lots of gay friends from college, but our interactions are mostly limited to facebook these days. And I have a bunch of gay friends in my Warcraft guild, too, people whose presence I value greatly, but I don’t run into any of them at the grocery store or at preschool drop off out here in the ‘burbs. What this means is that I’ve put a little extra value on some of the gay couples I do know. I feel like we’re all in a similar boat.

It makes me a little sad, then, to look around and see fewer boats in our little ocean. In the last couple of years, a lot of the gay couples I know have gone their separate ways. Ten years is a long time. People change, and their lives go in different directions. There have been plenty of times that I’ve wanted to throw Austin overboard. I know that he’s felt the same way, because it is a lot easier to be married to Austin than it is to be married to me. There’s no comparison. (I’m done with the boat metaphors now. I promise.)

I don’t want to talk about my friends’ divorces, because they are really none of my business, but I’m sure there must be an extra layer of disappointment when a long term gay relationship ends. There are a whole lot of negative messages out there about gay people and our relationships, and our ability to have and commit to healthy relationships. Yes, we all know those messages are garbage, but that doesn’t mean we don’t hear them. Alvin Lopez-Woods wrote a great piece about his divorce that was on Huffington Post last week.

I don’t want to say that Austin and I are doing something right, not just because that seems like a surefire way to bring a process server to my door with divorce papers, but also because I don’t imagine we’re doing anything differently from most other couples. We’re just lucky, I think.

So this week I feel pretty lucky.

November Goals Update

It’s not even winter yet, and my family is already going stir crazy. We were all a little under the weather the week of Thanksgiving, except for Andrew, who had a nasty stomach flu and sinus infection. That, it turns out, is a really fun combination!

In the two and a half years since the boys moved in, neither one of them has ever really been sick. Especially given the stress of moving in with a new family, that’s really quite remarkable. We’re lucky that they’re both always so healthy.

This also means, though, that Austin and I are pretty inexperienced when it comes to taking care of a sick child. But throwing up in bed in the middle of the night multiple times over the course of two weeks has given us some excellent training, and Andrew seems to be feeling much better now. (I am fighting the urge to grab a bucket and run every time I hear a cough.)

Onward to my goal progress in November.

Big successes first!

As of this morning, I have officially lost thirty pounds! That’s pretty much my entire goal. I’m really happy with what I’m seeing in the mirror these days. It’s like I’ve turned back the clock ten years, with a couple of notable exceptions …

I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been. (That’s not a very high bar!) I’m running for twenty minutes at a time, three times a week. What surprises me the most is how short my recovery time is now. When I started working out, I was exhausted, and the day after my workout always meant aching, tired legs. That’s all gone. I come home from a run, eat breakfast, and by the time I get out of the shower, I’m back to full capacity. (I’m even considering expanding my exercise efforts, which I really didn’t think I would do.)

My skin looks great. I’ve been on medication for acne for two months, and the difference is like night and day. My skin is looking better than it has in more than twenty years. I had totally given up on this.

And I had the barber completely clipper my hair. Two weeks later, I’m still getting used to it, but I think it works. I no longer look like I’m trying to hide the fact I’m going bald.

I’m also feeling pretty good about my writing, though that required a little bit of reevaluation this month.

I wrote 25,000 words in the month of November. That’s pretty good, although it obviously falls short of the 50,000 I was aiming for to meet the National Novel Writing Month goal. But I learned a lot this month, and I think in the long term that’s going to be very helpful.

For the first week of November, I met my daily writing benchmarks every day. That’s no small task, considering that I have two hours between dropping the boys off at school and picking Jordan up at the end of preschool.

What I learned, though, is that raising my sons is currently very much a full time job. And sure, I could add a second job to that by writing two thousand words every day, but it just wouldn’t be sustainable. (Nor would those two thousand words be very good ones.) Instead, I can be happy with slow progress and the knowledge that when my available time increases, I’ll have a pretty good idea what to do with it.

That’s not a change in my goal. I’m still going to write, but I’m going to keep in mind the parameters I have to work within.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Consumerism

Christmas Color

To say that my dad loves Christmas is more than just an understatement. It would be like saying, “Hey, let’s watch some reruns of my favorite old tv show, I Kind of Like Lucy.”  Or maybe that the characters in a Nicholas Sparks novel are fond of each other. My dad looks at Christmas with the kind of glee that most people reserve for winning the lottery. (It’s the kind of glee that I reserve for a night when marriage equality becomes reality in three more states.)

My dad’s Christmas-mania extends to all things winter. When snow is predicted, he can’t sleep through the night. He wakes up hourly, hops out of bed, and looks out the window to see if it’s snowing yet, or how much has accumulated. It drives my mother crazy, but after forty years, I suspect she’s less annoyed by it than she lets on.

The last two years, we’ve had a pretty low-key Christmas morning at my house. We do the whole Santa thing, but the boys don’t seem to get too bonkers with anticipation. They wake up on Christmas morning, open some presents, have breakfast, play for a little while, and then we spend the rest of the day with my parents and extended family at my parents’ house.

Last week, I suggested adding a new activity to the Christmas Day lineup.

“Hey, Mom,” I said, “I was thinking that maybe it would be fun for you and Dad to come have breakfast with us on Christmas morning. You could see the boys open their presents, and they’d think it was fun.”

She wasn’t convinced. “They’ll want to get up and open their presents awfully early, won’t they?” she asked.

“Well,” I said, “I can probably hold them off until 7:30 or 7:45 without a problem.”

The line was quiet. I know that getting up for breakfast madness at the crack of dawn is not Mom’s idea of a good time.

“We’ll see,” she said.

“Ok, but be careful. If you mention it to Dad while you’re still thinking about it, you won’t have a choice anymore.”

We spoke again on Saturday.

“I mentioned your Christmas idea to your Dad yesterday,” she said.

This is good. My mother can be a little slow to warm up to an idea, but mentioning it to Dad meant that she must be on board. I mean, sure, getting up early is annoying, but there are only so many chances to watch the boys open presents on Christmas morning while they’re still young.

“I assume Dad jumped up and down like the boys would?” I asked.

“No,” she laughed. “He said, ‘Maybe we can go to their house on Christmas Eve, after the boys are asleep! Then we could sleep there, and surprise the boys when they wake up in the morning.'”

“You’d certainly be welcome,” I said.

“I tried to remind him that we’ll have houseguests at own house that night,” she said.

“Well, it’s up to you guys,” I said. “I’m going to try to get a Wii U tomorrow, and if I do, it’ll be a very exciting Christmas morning.”

On Sunday morning, I got up before the boys were awake, and drove to the local Target. We like to joke that it’s the secret Target, because there’s never anyone there. You can go there on a Saturday and not see another customer. But when I got there a little before 7:30 on Sunday, there was already a small line of people waiting for the store to open at 8AM. I was seventh in a line of very cold, but very friendly, people.

I thought I was all set. I mean, certainly there would be enough consoles for seven people. Over the next little while, the line kept growing. A few minutes before 8AM, there were probably thirty people waiting. Literally, that’s more people than I have ever seen at this quiet little Target.

The manager came out. He asked if everyone was waiting for a Wii U. Obviously we were. Then he let us know that his store only had four of them. Oops.

Well, the local Best Buy was going to open at 11AM. I have limits, and I wasn’t going to stand in line outside Best Buy for three hours on a cold Sunday morning. I went home and had breakfast.

I said to Austin, “Ok, I’ll drive by Best Buy at 9:30. If there’s a long line, I’ll just come home. If there’s only a few people, I’ll try waiting until they open.”

So I made some coffee and drove over to Best Buy. There was no one waiting. Too good to be true? I parked, and walked up to the door. A few minutes later, a woman got out of her car and walked up to me.

“Are you waiting for a Wii?” she asked.

I nodded.

“I think you’re in luck,” she said. “There were a few of us waiting at 7, and the manager gave us tickets when he got here. He gave out six, and said he had four more. I haven’t seen him give out any tickets since then.”

Turns out I didn’t have to wait very long. They decided to open the store an hour early to get rid of the crazy people camping out on Sunday morning for a Wii U.

I got a ticket, and the manager said how glad he was that he worked in the suburbs now.

“I used to manage the Boston store,” he said. “I will never forget the launch of the PS3. We had to call the police, and they came in riot gear. This is much nicer.”

Much nicer, indeed. They had enough that everyone who was waiting was able to get one.

That was most of my Christmas shopping taken care of right there, in one swipe of the credit card. The boys are totally going to lose their minds when they see a Wii U under the Christmas tree.

But!

I might lose my mind, too. There’s a new game console in the spare bedroom closet, with a new Mario game, and I have to just leave it there for a whole month.

I had never considered this possibility when I thought about becoming a parent.

I’m Sick of Hearing You’re Sick of Politics

voting day in a small town

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but there’s a presidential election tomorrow.

If you look at my twitter timeline or facebook feed, you might think that the worst thing a person could do, in advance of a presidential election, is to talk about politics. Apparently it’s boring, or they’ve heard it all before, or they just don’t care that much.

Well.

I wish that I had the option to put politics aside. I really do. I’d much rather read a new book or spend some time playing the new Assassin’s Creed game (it looks like fun, but I’m letting my husband finish it first) than read about what horrific things the Republicans have said and done today.

But the stakes are too high.

I wish that politics were an optional pastime in the United States. It would be great if it were something that only hardcore wonks talked about, because choices between political candidates were about complex, arcane economic policies. I wish that the implementation of something like quantitative easing was how elections were won and lost.

It’s not, though.

Instead, our elections are about basic values. They’re about my family’s basic right to exist. They’re about a woman’s right to choose. They’re about whether or not your neighbors get to enforce their religious strictures on you and your family.

Maybe those basic civil rights don’t feel like a big deal to you. Maybe they don’t have a big impact. Maybe you feel like your family is protected, regardless of who is elected to Congress or the White House.

I wish I had the luxury of being sick of politics.

I don’t, though. Instead, I wake up on a Sunday morning, and the first thing I do is read the poll numbers. It looks like marriage equality has a real chance in Maine and Washington. I’ll be ecstatic if it succeeds in either, and I’ll pretend that a failure doesn’t feel like a punch to the gut.

I joke about it with my husband, but when I walk by a house with Republican campaign signs in the yard, I wonder, “Do the people in that house hate me?” In my head, I’ve ranked them. When I see a Scott Brown sign, I’ve decided that the occupants are probably just ignorant of the dangers. They probably don’t hate me. A Mitt Romney sign? He’s been pretty clear about what he thinks about the rights of gay people, so those neighbors are more likely to hate me and my family. And when I see a sign for Sean Bielat? Then I know it’s someone to avoid.

Last December, Austin ended up in the hospital unexpectedly. It turned out that he needed to have his gall bladder removed. It was all pretty routine, but after the surgery, he had a fever and needed to stay in the hospital for a few extra days. We’d been supposed to take the kids to Disney World with my parents. Instead, we were hoping that his fever wouldn’t come back and he’d be able to come home.

What I can’t shake, though, is the what-if questions. What if he’d felt sick a few days later, when we were already in Florida? Here in Massachusetts, we’re married. Would a hospital in Florida have treated us the same? Under an executive order from President Obama, they have to. (Sort of. Mostly.) But executive orders are flimsy. They can just change. And you can be pretty sure that President Romney wouldn’t let an executive order granting hospital visitation to same sex couples stand.

That’s just one tiny thing, in a sea of others. Things that impact lives.

So I’m sorry that you’re sick of hearing about politics. I am, too, for different reasons.

But really? Too fucking bad.

October Goals Update

I didn’t forget! I said I’d post another update mid-October, and here it is. (It’s not the last week of October yet, so it’s still totally the middle!) My younger son was home sick from school for three days this week, and it’s amazing how much I depend on those two hours every morning. They go by so fast, but you sure notice when you don’t have them. This month has been a mixed bag in terms of progress:

1. Blogging. I mentioned this on twitter last week, and got some great feedback from some other bloggers that was a huge help, but I hit a huge roadblock in writing about my conversation with a high school bully. I was writing about it every day, hating everything I found to say, and then trashing it and starting over. So I’ve set it aside for a little while, but hopefully will soon figure out a good way to write about it. The conversation was really good, and I feel like I learned a lot.

2. Writing. It’s moving along, if somewhat more slowly than I’d like. I’m going to take a little break from it for the month of November, and will be working on a new project for National Novel Writing Month. It seems like a good time for me to try a challenge in terms of increasing my output and getting myself to a place where I can write something on a plan instead of just when the feeling comes along.

3. Exercise. This has gone very well. I’ve been working on Couch-to-5K for six weeks, and am seeing big gains in terms of my ability to to push myself. This week, I did an 18-minute run that wasn’t broken up with any walking. Looking at my route on Google Maps, it looks like I ran about a mile and a half. I’ve been super fanatic about sticking to my schedule, and have been running every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning without exception. If you had asked me six weeks ago if there was any way I’d be able to do the workouts past the first couple of weeks, I’d have told you there was no chance in hell.

4. Weight Loss. This is also going very well. I’m a little more than halfway to my goal! Last weekend, I had to buy new jeans because my old ones were literally falling off. This is going to sound awful, but now if I look in the mirror, I feel like I look like me again. It feels a little shallow to say that, and I’m surprised that I feel that way. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that I gained a pound last week, and was furious at myself about it.

5. Skin. About a month ago, I had my first appointment with the new dermatologist. Fingers crossed, but he seems kind of like he might be a normal human in possession of some empathy. I wasn’t sure that was possible! Regardless, one month in, I’m definitely starting to see results. My skin is markedly improved, and that plus the weight loss … just feels pretty great!

Expect to see a November goals update at the very end of November, so I can rate my NaNoWriMo success.

Raising a Redditor

Andrew’s class earned themselves a Pajama Day. I’m not sure exactly how this prize is unlocked, but apparently it has something to do with filling a jar with marbles. “Ten marbles to Hufflepuff for correctly spelling SITS! Twelve marbles to Slytherin for deciding not to eat the paste today!”

Andrew thinks that Pajama Day is one of three major holidays. Christmas, Halloween, and Pajama Day. Thanksgiving? Yeah, it’s fine, but it’s clearly second-tier to Pajama Day.

I knew we were going to have a problem when he came downstairs in his baseball pajamas. They’re cute. Blue flannel pants printed with baseballs and bats. An orange jersey that says … oh, geez, does it really say that? An orange jersey that says, “Boys Rule the World Phys. Ed. Dept.” How had I not noticed that before?

I’ve considered myself a feminist for as long as I’ve known the word. Growing up, my best friend was a girl, and I always had a basic awareness that there seemed to be different standards for boys and girls, a different set of rules. And I knew that was stupid.

Adulthood has made the different sets of rules even more clear, and there’s little that’s been as personally frustrating and infuriating to me as watching my friend pushed out of a job when she had a child. The systematic way in which she was undermined so that she’d have to wonder, “Was this my failing? Did that really just happen?” was truly disgusting.

Gay men often seem to have difficulty with the concept of feminism and sexism. There’s this casual idea that if you’re gay, you just can’t be sexist, so when you say and do sexist things, you don’t really mean them that way. It’s just a joke. I’m constantly disappointed when gay men fail to understand that homophobia is a subset of sexism and misogyny. Homophobia only exists because people believe in these fundamental differences between the genders and try to enforce them.

So I’m not sure how Andrew has worn that shirt to bed so many times without my seeing the message. But this morning, I had this image of him wearing it where other people would see it, and I was horrified. I checked with Austin.

“So … Andrew’s shirt. I’m not imagining that, am I?” I asked.

“Nope,” he said. “Not imagining. He can’t wear that to school.”

It was almost time for school, so there was no way to switch shirts without a conversation. We brought down a new shirt, one with a baseball on it, so he could still wear it with his pajama pants. He wasn’t happy about it.

Austin tried to explain that the message on the first shirt kind of says that boys are better than girls, and that doesn’t seem like a very nice thing to say. Andrew sulked, but he gave in and switched shirts. But not without a parting shot:

“I don’t know why you care. The girls would all know it’s just a joke.”

I explained to him that some of the girls might not think it was a funny joke, that it seemed more like a mean joke to me.

And then I whispered to Austin, “Dear god, we’re raising a redditor.”

(Secret Spirit Day Bonus: His t-ball shirt is purple!)

Schrodinger’s School

The other day, I joked to Austin that “first grade is like the black box on an airplane. We’ll only find out what’s inside when it crashes.”

In some ways, I think no news is good news. I’ve had very brief conversations with the school psychologist and with the special education teacher who supervises Andrew’s classroom. It sounds like there’s not much to say because the things going on are the things we expect. But I’ve found myself missing the daily communication that came with preschool and kindergarten.

When I pick up Jordan from preschool, his teacher always lets me know how his day was, even if it’s just a quick “great day today, buddy!” directed at my son. When it’s a more complicated day, she tells me about the specifics.

This week, though, I had one of those phone calls that I was a little surprised I hadn’t received in the last six weeks. Andrew’s gym teacher called me.

“I just want to start by saying that Andrew is fine. He hasn’t been injured. Parents are always worried when I call,” she began.

Her list of concerns about Andrew’s behavior in her class was exactly what I would expect. He fails to follow directions, doesn’t attend to tasks, and can’t keep his hands to himself.

“Yes,” I said, “those are definitely the kind of challenges Andrew has in a classroom.”

It’s why he has an aide in his classroom, but it sounds like the gym teacher isn’t really kept in the loop on that. Actually, it sounds a little like she’s left in the lurch with no assistance.

I couldn’t help feeling that she expected me to have a solution for her, something I would say that would fix the problem. It’s something my best friend and I had talked about just the other day, too, that we’re just not shocked enough when teachers call us.

“I swear to god,” she said, “the next time his teacher calls me, I’m just going to say, ‘My son is autistic?!?! I had no idea!'”

It’s hard not to feel like you’re falling short as a parent when people keep looking to you for solutions that you don’t have.