Different

June 27, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
No Gravatar

My grandmother died thinking that she had been born defective.

I only realized how deeply ingrained her feelings of shame were when I visited her at the personal care facility that became her final home. I had brought my son, who was a toddler at the time, and handed him some crayons and paper to keep him occupied while we talked.

My grandmother watched as he picked out a blue crayon and began drawing.

“That poor child,” she said shaking her head almost in disgust.

“What do you mean?” I asked as I watched my son scribble. I didn’t think he was destined to be a great artist, but I didn’t consider that to be a tragedy as most of us aren’t.

“He’s left-handed.” she said.

“Yeah, I know,” I replied. I thought the fact was actually cool. Only about 10% of the population is left-handed, and I liked that he was rather unique.

“He’ll life will be difficult because of it,” she said.

I knew she wasn’t just referring to the fact that –  from scissors, to school desks to gear shifts –  the world is designed for right-handed people.

She was referring to the fact that she had been belittled for being born left-handed. In school. she was forced to use her right hand for everything, including handwriting. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been. I certainly didn’t do well when I was forced to use my left hand after shattering my right wrist. Even the simplest tasks of getting dressed and putting in my contacts were a struggle.

Some people say that children were forced to write with their right hands because their arms dragged across fresh ink when they used their left. That may be true, but my grandmother’s deep shame at being left-handed was rooted in something deeper.

My daughter, who like my son is also left-handed, keeps me, her right-handed mother, updated about the meaning of being a leftie. She has informed me that the Latin word for “left” is “sinister,” and that left in English comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “lyft,” which means broken or weak. Many artistic representations of the devil depict him as left-handed, while the Christian church’s blessings are performed with the right. Granted, since most people are right-handed, the use of the right hand makes sense, and I can personally attest to the fact that my left hand is weak.

But none of that explains why my grandmother was taught that being left-handed was so wrong that she needed to pretend that she was right-handed. Being left-handed didn’t hurt anyone – it just made her life more difficult.

While my own children still live in a world that is designed for right-handed people, they no longer are shamed as my grandmother was. For years now, society has accepted that some people are simply born left-handed. We no longer expect them to act in a way that is against their true nature or  to hide whom they really are.

It’s a pretty phenomenal concept that seems to finally be making progress regarding other human differences as well.

It’s about time.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

The Breakfast Club

June 14, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
No Gravatar

I fell in love with the movie The Breakfast Club when I first saw it on my eighteenth birthday more than 30 years ago.

At the time, I couldn’t imagine that my two teenagers would enjoy watching it in the year 2015. In fact, I would have found the idea completely impossible.

The movie was about my generation.

The angst of the five teenage characters stuck in detention on a Saturday clearly demonstrated that we suffered from the mistakes and misguided expectations of our parents.

As the character Andrew, played by Emilio Estevez said, “Everyone’s home lives are unsatisfying. If it wasn’t, people would live with their parents forever.”

The first time I heard him say that line, I thought no truer words have ever been spoken. I couldn’t wait to put as much distance between my parents and me as possible. I was sure that all of my faults were products of my parents’ faults. My only hope for a normal life was to escape them.

Now, watching the movie with my own kids, I have a different perspective.

Hairstyles may change, fashion may change. technology may change, even language may change, but human nature doesn’t change that quickly.

The Breakfast Club is about the ridiculous social constructs of high school. By the end of the movie, the characters recognize that individuals are much more complicated than the labels they are given.

All these years later, I realize that those social structures and labels from high school aren’t that different from those in the world today. As adults, we just do a better job at pretending we’ve outgrown them.

We haven’t.

The people with money and connections make the rules. Those with the right social contacts are recognized and applauded for their good work even though others do just as much. The misbehavior of athletes is often accepted, and low-income people are blamed for their situations.

When The Breakfast Club was first released, my generation hoped we’d be better than that.

We rolled our eyes during a scene in the basement of the school that features a conversation between the principal and Carl the  janitor. Principal Vernon warns Carl that, when they get old, the kids are going to be running the country and they should be worried. At the time, I just considered Vernon an old guy who was out of touch with young people.

Now, the generation that scared him IS running the country, and, unfortunately, we do  demonstrate the self-absorbed behavior about which he worried.

But, there is also hope.

Unlike Principal Vernon, I’m not nearly as concerned about the generation coming up behind us.

From what I’ve observed, they are more accepting of differences and more likely to challenge the status quo. In other words, I think they really do get the lessons in The Breakfast Club.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

When He Becomes She

June 6, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
No Gravatar

I’m doing it again. I’m writing about something in the life of one of my children that is basically none of my business.

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been telling myself not to write about my son’s friend.

She’s not a close friend of his, so I don’t really know her. Also, my son never mentioned anything about what she was going through until my husband and I asked. Most of all, her life is absolutely none of my business.

I’ve only made it my business because she’s requiring me to confront my own biases and beliefs.

I’ve always considered myself open-minded and accepting, but her situation made me dig a bit deeper. And, in light of recent headlines about Caitlyn Jenner, the timing couldn’t have been better.

You see, my son’s friend is physically a boy. At least for the moment. But my son and his friends call her she because that is what she wants.

When my husband and I saw her wearing a dress for the first time, we thought maybe she had a lost a bet. And when we asked our son about it, he said “she’s transitioning,” as though it was no big deal.

It was a big deal to my husband and me.

“Shouldn’t he wait to make that decision until he’s out of high school?” my husband asked.

“Why should she wait to be the person she is?” my son replied, making a point about which pronoun he used,

He seems unfazed about the whole situation.

I, on the other had, was having a difficult time wrapping my head around the situation. I have volunteered side by side with the friend’s mother, and my thoughts kept going to her. Or, maybe, they were really going  back to me.

Because I know without a doubt that if my son were to come to me and tell me he was a woman trapped in a male body, I would have a very difficult time coming to terms with the situation.

I would probably ask him to wait a few years before he did anything about it – just to be sure. And, truthfully and sadly, I would be very concerned about what others thought about my family. I hate feeling like that, but it’s the truth.

I was sharing this with a friend, who told me a story about her niece, once her nephew, who had transitioned in high school.

At the time, my friend’s children were in elementary school, and she had to explain the situation to them before a family gathering.

The nephew who was transitioning was the youngest, and apparently the quietest, of three boys.

“He won’t be quiet anymore,” my friend’s son said.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I’m eight years old,” her son said. “I’m always around girls. I live with my sister. I go to school with girls. I play sports with girls. I have experience with girls, and girls are anything but quiet. Things are going to change.”

That was the extent of his concern about his male cousin becoming a female.

His observations may have been a bit sexist and not entirely logical, but they illustrate a wisdom that adults often lose. He was focused on his cousin’s personality, not whether he was a she.

It’s something my son understands and something I need to remember.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

I don’t want to be perfect

June 1, 2015 by Kelly Weikle
No Gravatar

“You’re perfect,” said my husband after I’d had a particularly rough morning.

“No, I’m not,” I said.

“Yes, you are,” he responded.

“I don’t want to be perfect.”

Despite my husband’s sweet (and maybe delusional) comment, I am not, in fact, perfect. Nor do I want to be – which is something I didn’t realize until I said it out loud to Chris last week.

Since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be perfect. To be the best at everything I do. If I wasn’t the best, it wasn’t worth doing. I wasn’t always able to be perfect at everything, but I sure tried my hardest.

Motherhood has changed me. Instead of striving for perfection, I am striving for happiness. And being happy means trying my hardest, but making mistakes. It means focusing on what’s important, and letting go of what’s not. It means not being so hard on myself.

Anyone who says they are perfect at everything, well, I normally wouldn’t be so bold, but I think they are lying. No one is perfect, despite the face we put out to the world.

I know I’m not the only mom or the only female to struggle with this issue. We have internal and external forces constantly pushing us to be the perfect mother, the perfect spouse, the perfect employee, the perfect friend.

I usually brush aside articles and comments on how social media, popular culture, etc. set unrealistic expectations for women. I’m sure they don’t help the issue, but I think at least for me, the desire to be perfect starts internally rather than from what I see, hear or read. I have a strong need to please and a competitive nature. These combined traits sometimes lead to unrealistic expectations for myself.

I remember reading a script from an interview where a popular newscaster said, “You can’t have it all,” referring to women and the quest to have the perfect home, career and social life.

“She’s wrong,” I thought, “You can have it all if you try hard enough.”

Well, I don’t think she was wrong or right. I don’t think it’s black and white. I think maybe you can have it all, but just not on the same day. Or maybe even on the same day, just not all at the same time.

One of my advisors in college told me, “You can’t be good at everything all at once.” Although they were comforting words at the time, lately they’ve taken on new meaning. I’ve realized I can’t be perfect at all the roles in my life at the same time. When I push myself to my limit on all fronts, it ends in me being stressed to the point of breaking and good at none of my roles.

I recently saw a post on Facebook from a page called A Mighty Girl about raising our daughters to NOT strive for perfection, but instead to focus on authentic happiness. I scrolled past the post, uninterested (I’m not one for self-help books), but now I think I need to revisit this concept. I don’t want AJ to think she has to be perfect. I want her to be happy with herself, imperfections and all.

At the end of the day, AJ doesn’t care if I’m perfect. She cares that I’m there for her, that I love her and that I take care of her. And that I do. Isn’t that what we all really ask of each other anyway?

I’m not perfect, and I’m thankful for that!

Taking a Stand

May 30, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
No Gravatar

For hours, I’ve been debating whether or not to write about the situation that unfolded at my daughter’s middle rainbowschool this past week.

My daughter has more or less told me not to share it, but she also knows I’m a person who writes stories that need to be told.

This is one of those stories.

To be perfectly honest, I only know one side of it  – the one that my daughter and her friends are sharing. But even if they don’t have all the facts straight, it is their actions – not that of the school personnel – that others need to know about.

Thursday night was the eighth grade dance, the last middle school dance for my daughter and her friends. It was a big deal. Many of the girls were picking out their dresses weeks ago, and my daughter, who usually takes less than ten minutes to get ready and rarely wears makeup, spent at least an hour beautifying.

Later that evening, no one was talking about what people wore or with whom they danced. They were talking about the girl who was kicked out of the dance.

At first, no adult minded that the ninth grader, who had attended the middle school the year before, attended the dance. But after spending time with her date, another girl, something happened.

Other students are reporting that she was told to leave by a member of the faculty who made derogatory comments about homosexuality and said that the teenage girls are too young to know about their sexuality. She called them “confused.”

I don’t know if that is completely true, partially true or not true at all.

What I do know is that the eighth grade class wasn’t going to tolerate even the hint of homophobia.

The next day, the students made a collective statement. The painted rainbows and the words “It’s okay to be gay” on their arms and even their faces.

I know there are still people who don’t agree with them, but I think everyone should be proud of 13 and 14 year-olds who are willing to stand up for others.

I was a teenager in the 1980’s and am part of a generation that has a reputation for not caring about much of anything but ourselves. Sometimes, I wonder if the world would still be plagued with so many problems if we had been a bit more passionate about people who were different and a little less worried about meeting our own needs.

As I listened to my daughter talk about what an entire eighth grade class did, I didn’t just swell with pride for her and her peer group.

I also filled with a sense of hope for the future.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Back to (Sleep) Square One

May 25, 2015 by Kelly Weikle
No Gravatar

Just when you can start to see the light at the end of the sleepless night tunnel…9 month sleep regression hits. I think this might be the worst sleep saga yet.

I write about sleep (or lack thereof) a lot, probably because I love it so much. I used to get at least seven hours of sleep a night. One of my favorite pastimes was taking a good nap. Now, if I get a solid five hours without waking up, I feel like a new person. Naps are a thing of the past – even if I get a few minutes to relax, I’m too wired to sleep and have a million other things to do.

The newborn phase is by far the worst as far as amount of sleep goes, when they literally cannot sleep for more than three hours, because if they do you are supposed to wake them up to feed them. But, my days didn’t require as much energy, since I was still on maternity leave and a newborn doesn’t do much besides sleep, eat and lie there looking cute. Even after we no longer had to wake AJ to feed her, she kept up the pattern of sleeping for only three to four hours for months.

Finally, she started to sleep through the night. Things were looking up; she would sleep through the night more than half the time. And on the nights she would wake up, I would nurse her and she would go right back to sleep.

But about two weeks ago, AJ started waking up at night. And by waking up, I mean every night, within seconds after we turn out our light to go to sleep she starts screaming. As soon as we pick her up, she immediately falls back to sleep. And as soon as we put her in her crib, she immediately starts screaming again. We can hold her for two minutes or two hours; the second she hits the mattress the whole ordeal begins again.

I don’t know what is causing this new development at night. It could be some sort of separation anxiety; it could be a side effect of all the physical and mental growth happening right now. Or it could be AJ is learning how to manipulate us to get what she wants (I suspect this is the case). Whatever the cause, we’ve tried just about everything to get back to normal. We’ve done what the experts say to do and we’ve done what the old wives’ tales say to do. Nothing seems to provide the desired result, which is AJ sleeping in her crib, and me sleeping in my bed.

I think if we really picked a plan and stuck with it, we might see better results. But I’m in pure survival mode at 2 a.m.; whatever it takes to get her to sleep is what I do.

As I’ve maintained with all difficult things so far in motherhood, I believe (hope, pray) that this too shall pass. Has anyone else gone through a phase like this? How did you survive it? Did you find the magic touch to get your baby to sleep in his or her own crib through the night, or did you simply have to ride it out?

The Duggars’ Greatest Crime

May 23, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
No Gravatar

This is one of those times when I have more to say than I have words to express my emotions.

And yet, I will use this limited space to share the anger I’ve felt since first reading that Josh Duggar admitted to molesting young girls, including relatives, when he was a teenager.

I’ve never watched an episode of the Duggars’ television show, 19 Kids and Counting, and up until a couple of years ago, I didn’t know the name of even one Duggar kid.

I wasn’t so removed from popular culture that I wasn’t aware of the family who periodically appeared on the Today Show to announce another pregnancy, but I never gave them more thought than they seemed out of touch with reality.

I am the same age as Michelle,the matriarch of the family, and I remember thinking that she must have very low self-esteem to need to keep having babies to get attention.

Then, a couple of years ago I was so bored while waiting for a hair appointment that I picked up a magazine with the Duggars on the cover and read an article about them. I learned more about the family than I ever wanted to know. They aren’t just a really big family. They are a really big family that thinks women should be subservient to men. For example, they believe that a woman destroys a husband’s manliness if she is financially independent and should submit to him. Even worse, they teach their children that women must cover their bodies from head to toe so they don’t tempt men.

In other words, men can’t control themselves, so women are responsible for ensuring they don’t make unwanted sexual advances. The family even has a code word – Nike – that they use when a woman they consider to be scantily clad (which might mean she’s wearing shorts and a v-neck t-shirt) walks by. When the word is uttered, the males in the family are supposed to look down at their shoes so they don’t “see things they shouldn’t see.”

And now the oldest Duggar son has admitted he is guilty of incidents of sexual assault that were hidden from the public for years. During those same years, the Duggars’ media dynasty grew right along with the size of their family. During that same time, Josh’s victims heard the Duggars talk about how women need to cover up because men can’t control themselves

In other words, the victims not only had to endure the silence about Josh’s crimes but they had to listen to the Duggars perpetuate the myth that victims of a sexual assault did something to provoke their attacker.

While that is not be a criminal offense, it is a terrible, terrible crime.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Vacation with Baby: Expectation vs. Reality

May 18, 2015 by Kelly Weikle
No Gravatar

We recently went on our first real vacation with AJ. At the first sign of summer weather we packed our bags and headed to our favorite beach with my parents. We had a blast, but I was unprepared for how un-relaxing our trip would be! Here’s a little insight on vacation with a baby:

Travel

Expectation – Baby sleeps the entire time.

Reality – Baby does sleep most of the time, but then wakes up at 2 a.m. that night ready to party. The same thing happens on the way home.

Day on the Beach

Expectation – AJ gets up at her usual time of around 6 a.m. and we head out to the beach as soon as possible, getting there around 8 a.m. We easily set up our brand new beach tent. Baby wears her swimsuit, sunglasses, sun hat and plenty of sunscreen (which I reapply every hour). She happily plays with her toys in the tent while Chris and I sit in our beach chairs, reading our books and enjoying the scenery. AJ takes her morning nap in the beach tent, which allows us to doze off as well. We go in for lunch around noon, and come back out for the afternoon. We grudgingly leave the beach when it’s time to get ready for dinner.

Reality – AJ decides to get up at 5 a.m., even though we are not in a different time zone. Despite this, we do not make it out to the beach until around 10 a.m. It takes us about 25 minutes to get our beach tent set up, and requires three of four adults. We sit AJ in the tent, only to have her immediately crawl out. We repeat this activity until we finally give up. AJ refuses to wear her hat or sunglasses, and I finally give in and lather her head with sunscreen. We get our work out in by walking AJ down and back from our chairs to the water, over and over again. About an hour after we get on the beach, AJ gets fussy; it’s time for her nap. She refuses to take a nap on the beach, so we head inside for lunch. Because it’s so windy outside, we decide we have to take down the tent we spent half our time trying to put up. After two hours inside, we make out in the afternoon for about 45 minutes, until AJ gets fussy again and is ready for her afternoon nap. All in all, we see about two and half hours of beach time, and I barely sit, much less open a page of my book.

Out to Eat

Expectation – We arrive at our chosen restaurant around 6 p.m. and get immediately seated. After we order, we feed AJ, who eats all of her food quickly and happily. AJ plays with her toys while the adults eat. We make it out of the restaurant by 7 p.m., perfect timing for AJ to get ready for bed once we get home.

Reality – We arrive at our chosen restaurant and there is an hour wait. We try to feed AJ while waiting for our table. There is too much going on for her to focus; she swats the baby food out of my hand and it flies everywhere. After we get seated, AJ plays a game of wanting out of her high chair and wanting back in. Every time the waiter places something on our table, he places it in front of AJ. She screams when we take away a fork that she somehow got her hands on. As we eat, AJ switches between trying to use my arm to pull herself out of the high chair and making other guests uncomfortable as she locks her unblinking gaze on them. We don’t make it out of the restaurant until after 8 p.m., way past AJ’s bedtime.

Evening

Expectation – AJ sleeps. Mommy and daddy enjoy a nice cocktail while sitting on the balcony and listening to the waves.

Reality – AJ does not sleep. Mommy and daddy spend most of the evening trying to put her to bed, and most of the night trying to get her to go back to sleep. When she falls asleep at a reasonable hour, mommy and daddy have one drink, inside because we can’t hear the baby if we are on the balcony. After one drink, decide to go to bed because we are exhausted and it has to be after midnight. Look at the clock; it’s 9:30 p.m.

Although going to the beach with a baby was not what I expected, it was an experience I will never forget! Our vacation was much more eventful and much more fun.

Kelly Weikle and her husband Chris are navigating the uncharted road of parenthood with their infant daughter, AJ. Kelly shares the ups, downs, laughs, and cries of new motherhood on The Mommyhood every Monday. When not discovering what everyone else who has a child already knows, Kelly works full time in corporate communications.

Mom’s Performance Evaluation

May 14, 2015 by Trina Bartlett
No Gravatar

I don’t need warm weather and blooming flowers to remind me that spring has arrived.

I’ve got our human resources department to do that.

Each May, everyone where I work experiences the slightly painful but absolutely essential requirement of enduring multple-personalitiesthe annual performance evaluation.

This past week, as I sat through mine, I kept thinking “If my husband and kids were here, they’d be convinced that my supervisor was completely delusional.”

In fact, they would be rolling on the floor in fits of convulsive laughter as they listened to comments about my ability to go with the flow, communicate effectively and maintain an easy-going demeanor.

The woman they know wants life to go as planned, talks too much, asks too many questions and is wound way too tightly.

And yet, I am both women.

When I told a friend I’m afraid I suffer from multiple personality disorder, she said that every mom suffers the same phenomena.

“We are just different with our families,” she said. “They see a side of us that we don’t show the rest of the world”

I understood what she was saying, but I also wanted to disagree. I take pride in being completely authentic in every aspect of my life, and her words made me question whether I’m being truthful with myself.

And then, I realized we were both correct.

My friend wasn’t saying I’m not authentic. She was saying that mothers are simply programmed to be on high alert when it comes to their families.

No matter how driven and motivated I am to be successful in my professional career, no matter how much I try to make a difference in my community and the people my organization serves, and no matter how much I want to be respected in my field, being a mom takes everything to a different level.

That’s when my primal instincts kick in.

Even though rational, professional me knows that people need to adapt when things don’t go their way, I don’t want my kids to face as many bumps in the road as I did. While the social worker in me realizes that I shouldn’t react when someone behaves in a way I don’t approve, I can’t remain quiet when my kids do something with which I disagree. And despite the fact that I don’t freak out when my co-workers make mistakes, I obsess over my children’s missteps.

Because of that, I know that my children will never give me a stellar performance evaluation. I’m o.k. with that. because what they do give me is absolutely priceless.

First Mother’s Day

May 11, 2015 by Kelly Weikle
No Gravatar

As many West Virginians know, Mother’s Day was founded by West Virginian Anna Jarvis. The first Mother’s Day celebration occurred in May 1908 in Grafton, West Virginia. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made it an official national holiday.

Anna Jarvis came up with the idea of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. She also believed there were not enough holidays honoring women, arguing that most American holidays recognized male contributions. Her vision of the day was one where families would spend time together and thank their mothers. Sadly, later in life she actively campaigned against the holiday she had created, because she was disgusted with the way the day had become commercialized.

Despite her despair about the commercialization of the day, I believe Ms. Jarvis’s original vision for Mother’s Day remains in tact. It still is a day where we recognize the sacrifices our mothers, our mothers’ mothers, and those who are like our mothers make for us. It’s a day we say thank you for the little things; the things that we often take for granted. Mother’s Day is a chance for us to recognize the small acts that make up motherhood – waiting to eat last at family meals, getting up early to pack lunches, booking doctor appointments, sewing costumes, kissing boo-boos, and working behind the scenes to make sure the family gears stay in motion.

This year was my first true Mother’s Day. Now that I have a teensy bit of clarity around the sacrifices my own mother made (and makes) for me, I am even more in awe of her and all the other amazing women I know who have raised such wonderful people. Motherhood is without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done, and my baby is not even a year old! But, here’s another thing I’ve learned – all those little sacrifices our mothers make are not sacrifices to them. I would do anything for my baby and do it gladly. It’s not a sacrifice; it’s the purpose of my life. Becoming a mother has made me who I am meant to be.

May we all remember the sacrifices our mothers and caregivers make for us not only on Mother’s Day, but every day. And may we as mothers let our children know that we don’t consider what we do a sacrifice, but a blessing.

(Although I knew the history of Mother’s Day, I referenced this page to make sure I got the details right.)

Kelly Weikle and her husband Chris are navigating the uncharted road of parenthood with their infant daughter, AJ. Kelly shares the ups, downs, laughs, and cries of new motherhood on The Mommyhood every Monday. When not discovering what everyone else who has a child already knows, Kelly works full time in corporate communications.