7 going on 13

My daughter has been diagnosed with premature thelarche. Which, if you’re not up on your medical terminology (this was a new one on me), means she’s developing breast buds a little ahead of schedule.

She is 7. Nearly 8, but still…7. With the beginnings of breasts.

That’s not the most upsetting portion of the situation to me. Because we went to see the doctor, and she ordered a hand x-ray to establish whether Anya’s skeleton was developed beyond her years, and it’s not. So we have avoided the hormone therapy we might have endured. No, what makes me sad/happy is this:

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Mom and I took Anya for a girls’ shopping trip. We used to shop all the time before Kai was born, and after he was born until he began boycotting clothes shopping. It’s been harder since Mom’s been on oxygen, but she’s doing much better these days. So we went out.

But just look at my girl.

In my mind, she looks like this.

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And this.

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And this.

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But she’s also helping me create weekly menus and insisting I let her clean the bathrooms and having discussions about pop music with my mother.

Yesterday we had to buy her new clothes (because she’s up a dress size) and shoes (because she’s up TWO sizes — putting her feet a mere three sizes smaller than mine). She’s eating roughly 4 meals a day these days. The girl who, not so long ago, told me “I don’t really like food” ate two dinners last night and wanted a snack when we got home. At 9 p.m.

Anya says she’s nearly a teenager. I tell her that, no matter what her body is doing, she won’t be a teenager for 5 years.  There is no denying, however, that she’s more mature mentally than I was at her age. I remember lamenting the loss of the playground when I entered 6th grade and we moved to the other side of the school. My classmates were losing interest in playing; they wanted to talk about hair and makeup and clothes and boys. I still wanted to swing. While she loves to play, don’t get me wrong — Anya is swiftly growing more sophisticated in her interests. I don’t see her as regretting the passing of childhood like I did. She’s more forward-looking than I ever was.

It’s a lot of fun, having a big girl. I have someone to talk to, someone to shop with, someone to bake and walk and watch movies with. But it also makes me ache.

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Morning snuggles

Dawn. From the other side of my office door, I hear bare feet whisper-stumbling across hardwood. My door opens and my daughter shuffles in, a sleepy scowl on her face, to curl up in my lap as she’s done every day of her nearly 8 years. It’s getting harder for her to do that now; she comes up to my shoulder these days, and is nearly half my weight. But we manage, for old time’s sake, to snuggle together for a few moments. I stroke her hair as her eyes flutter shut, her face serene as when she was a newborn. Just for a moment, I’m cradling my baby — then she’s off to the kitchen in search of a cuppa and her tablet.

Soon after she leaves, I hear the scuffling of smaller feet on the boards outside my door. In bursts my son, making his usual early morning grumpy-owl face. He lunges at me and I lift him up; he flings his arms around my neck and hugs me tight, our hearts beating against each other, as he pats my back and I rub his. We hold each other like that for a moment, then he too lays down in my arms — not nursing, not anymore, but still enjoying the feeling of being cradled. I ask how he slept, and he tells me elaborate dreams that probably made more sense if you were in them with him. I kiss his head, and he kisses me all over my face. Then he’s off — to play, watch tablet, pester his sister, or chase the Roomba around and chastise it when it gets stuck under furniture.

Every morning of their lives, I’ve been here. If they’re hurt, scared, sick, lonely, hungry, bored, or just want a hug, I’m steps away. They sometimes get sick of me, and that’s okay. They know I’m here, and that’s the important thing. Being here in the morning when they wake up is one of my favorite perks of working from home. So important is our little routine that my son sometimes sleepwalks to my office in the middle of the night, looking for me. (We cosleep, so he’s slipping out of my arms to do this — which is how I know he’s sleepwalking.)

It’s just for a little while, though. Every day, they’re growing. One day all too soon they won’t come in to crawl on my lap when they wake up. That day is going to break my heart, but it will also mean I have done my job.

In the meantime, I welcome these little interruptions — even when they distract me from my deadlines. Deadlines will always be there, but kids are only small for such a short time.

Talks with my daughter

I’m currently trying to build time alone with my daughter into my schedule. Walks are ideal, because when we go for walks, she talks to me. Really talks. The questions that have been nagging her come out. The things I most want to say to her finally get said. And we relate on that deep level I’d always hoped I would with my daughter.

One of the things we talk about while we walk is consent. Not in a sexual sense, though I see that conversation emerging in the distance. We talk about how people treat her. About how I, as her parent and protector, do and do not allow her to be treated. About how she can and should insist she be treated.

I’ve broken up with the kids’ dentist. The clinic is very kid-centric, and has the coolest waiting room I’ve seen, hands down. The kids were always happy to go to the dentist. But what matters is the dental care, not the office, and they let me down. Worse, they let my kids down.

The year before last, Anya had some dental work done. Three fillings and an extraction. At 6. She’s a tense child under the best of circumstances, so they gave her something to relax her. It didn’t. She screamed and cried the whole time. The dentist kept telling her to be quiet. To stop crying. Kept insisting she stop screaming because she was scaring the other children. Kept telling her she had nothing to cry about. It took all I had not to scoop her up and carry her out of there. But he’d already drilled out the fillings, and I knew I’d never get her in another dentist’s chair if we left just then. The way he spoke to her turned my stomach, though. I fought back tears the whole time.

Later, after we were home and she had calmed somewhat, I told her she never had to go back there if she didn’t want to. But she decided she did want to go back, so I kept the kids’ follow-up appointment.

Again, she was terrified. I mean, why wouldn’t she be, after what she’d been through? She got through the visit okay, though, because she saw a different dentist at the clinic. But her fear had infected her brother, and he refused to have his teeth cleaned. Then, after he saw that Anya did okay, he wanted to try again — and was ignored.

I spoke up for him. I was ignored. And that was it for me. I told the front desk that we wouldn’t be back. And I told Anya that she could start going to my dentist if she wanted to.

“Does he ever yell at you?” she asked. Oh, my heart.

“No, sweetheart. He has never yelled at me. He has never hurt me. He’s a very nice man.”

“I want to go to your dentist,” she said. “I need a nice dentist.”

I told her that no doctor or dentist, or teacher — no one — had the right to speak to her the way that dentist spoke to her. That she may be little, but she is a person. That she had every right to scream and cry, because she was scared and in pain. Screaming and crying are perfectly acceptable ways to express those feelings. Especially when you’re six.

Last summer, on the second to last day of her swimming lessons, the swim instructor walked her out after class, long after the other kids in her class had gone. She was choking and sobbing and trembling. The teacher told me she’d gotten scared putting her face in the water, and jokingly asked Anya if they were still friends. Anya didn’t answer.

On the way home, Anya told me the teacher kept pushing her face in the water — water that was over her head — even though Anya was sobbing with fear. She begged me to let her skip the last swimming lesson. Up until that day, she loved swimming lessons, and even planned on getting lifeguard certification like her dad. No more.

I’d had my reservations about the swimming lessons, I must admit. They wouldn’t let me go back with her. That always sets off alarm bells for me. So when Kai’s turn at lessons came up, I was on high alert.

They let me go in with him the first day. I watched as one of the instructors made a little boy cry so much he nearly vomited. He was afraid of the water, so she made him hold on to her as she swam out to the far end and back with all the other kids. His mother finally pulled him out of there and left. I was ready to do the same, but Kai was so eager to swim. He begged to go back the next day. I was hesitant, but allowed it.

He said nothing after that next lesson, but when it was time to leave for class the following day, he refused. And that was it; he was done with the lessons. I don’t know what the instructor did to him, but he refused to go after that.

I told Anya all of this. I told her that those women had no right to treat her and her brother — any of those children — the way they did. I told her that while I do force her to do things that are scary, that hurt, like doctor visits and vaccinations, I only do them when needed to keep her and Kai safe and healthy. Otherwise, I respect their wishes. If they don’t want to learn to swim, they don’t have to. I told her that some adults feel that forcing a kid to do scary stuff helps them get over it. And I told her that because of adults like that, I still can’t swim.

I told her that it’s very important that she go to the dentist. That sometimes the dentist has to do scary, uncomfortable things — cleanings and fillings and x-rays and such. But that no dentist has the right to tell her not to cry when she’s scared. No dentist has the right to continue inflicting pain when she’s begging him to stop. I told her about the little boy at swimming lessons, and how I didn’t think the instructor had the right to keep swimming out to the deep end with him when his mom was telling her to let him out of the pool. Maybe that instructor taught hundreds of kids that way. Maybe she taught her own kids that way. But it wasn’t up to her to decide that this boy must learn that way — that was up to the boy and his mother, and they were saying no.

Consent isn’t just sex. Consent is the thousands of liberties adults take with children from the time they’re babies, because they’re bigger and think they know better. Because they can. I sincerely hope that by teaching Anya and her brother these things now, I’m giving them the tools to better handle consent when sex enters the picture.

Blank slate hummus (GF, vegan)

(Yes, that bruise on my thumb is taking its sweet time growing out.)

Hummus, how I have missed you.

I’m still waiting on my lab results, but in the meantime my nutritionist suggested I try homemade hummus so I could be sure it didn’t contain anything that might trigger me. This is that hummus. It’s quick and easy, bland enough for my stomach yet tasty enough that Kai and I wolf it down. (Anya says it needs salt.)

I still haven’t determined if I can handle even this hummus. I was okay the first day, but on subsequent days I became incredibly uncomfortable after eating it. I’m hoping I was simply combining it with the wrong foods, because this stuff is delicious. I will be very sad if I can’t have it anymore.

If you prefer hummus with more pizzazz, you could tweak this pretty much any way you choose — none of the flavors are so strong that they will overwhelm or even compete with whatever extras you add.

But first, the basics.

 

Blank slate hummus

1 can chickpeas, drained (rinsed well for low FODMAP)
4 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
Juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons cold water

Puree the chickpeas in a food processor until smooth. Add the tahini, cumin, paprika, and salt and process until well combined. Scrape down the bowl, then add the lemon juice and olive oil and process until smooth. Scrape down the bowl again, then add the water a little at a time, processing after each addition, until the mixture reaches your desired consistency.

There go my weekend plans

I just broke the cardinal rule of tummy bugs: I consumed food I would miss were I never able to eat it again.

Yep, my daughter barfed last night. A lot. My husband, upon picking up the bucket to empty it, said “Wow — that’s heavy.” (Sorry. TMI?) I sleep right next to her, so I’m now on watch for the next few days. And because I tend not to be able to eat anything I’ve ever vomited, the foods I eat this weekend are on the endangered list. But when you’re on a diet as limited as this elimination diet, what can you do?

Here’s hoping we get to stay friends, strawberry smoothie.

Speaking of the elimination diet, I’m entering the reintroduction phase now, on the advice of my nutritionist.

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You read that right — I finally have a nutritionist. And soon, hopefully, some answers. I sent 4 vials of blood off for testing yesterday, and will go in for a fasting blood test (4 more vials) next week. My wallet is much lighter now.

I’ll have to wait for the test results for answers to my big question (What can I eat?), but she did give me some pointers in the meantime. I figured I’d be chided for the absolute lack of variety in my diet, but she understood that part. Where I’m falling short is (drumroll) I’m not eating enough fat. So I get to do fun things like put oil in my smoothies. Hey, if it means I can stop thinking about food 24/7 and that this headache will finally go away, I will happily goop up my fruit.

In the meantime, I am testing out foods. I tried chickpeas last night. Since I am already in a flare, I can’t say if they set me off or not — but at least they didn’t make me immediately, noticeably worse. I’m thinking I might try some homemade hummus this weekend. Next week: Avocados. I hope I get to reclaim avocados. I miss them so.

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In other news, the print head on my printer died. Whether I killed it or it died of natural causes is unknown; I’m thinking these things simply have a specified life span to keep you buying new models. (I’ve had it nearly 7 years. That’s ancient in electronics years.) The new printer plus ink cost less than a new print head would have, and the new printer’s ink is less expensive than my current model’s, so I’ll take the hit. But damn, this was an expensive week.

As if I needed anything else to keep me inside this weekend, a) I had a quick freelance project come in and b) it’s freezing out there today. So I will stay home, sip hot beverages, earn a few Benjamins to throw at my newly burdened plastic (I just paid those off, damn it!), and hope I don’t puke.

Cross your fingers for me.

Ode to Super Target

Our local Super Target is closing, and my daughter is deep in mourning.

I get it. I do. There are several Targets we shop regularly, but Super Target has always been my favorite. Not for the same reasons my daughter favors it — she’s in it for the toys, and for the (admittedly superior) Dollar Spot. Coming so close on the heels of Toys R Us going under, this closing has her panicked. Where will the toys come from?

I prefer Super Target because it offers the best one-stop shop — for someone with small kids, that’s the Holy Grail of shopping. Some parts of the store are not as well stocked as regular Targets, true. But for our general needs, Super Target covered my bases well.

Super Target was a weekly outing. An event unto itself. Need clothes, groceries, toiletries, toys? Super Target. Need to get out of the house? Need steps? Need to take the kids somewhere indoors? Just need a treat? Super Target’s got you. It was my kids’ first Target. One of their first words. And the first logo either of them recognized. We loved the store, the employees, all of it.

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve been to Super Target. The weather’s been icky and we’ve been sick and we just haven’t gotten out. But Mom and I shopped there last week. A lot of departments are all but empty. I stood there misting over in what had been the baby clothes section — so many of my kids’ outfits came from there! Yes, I felt ridiculous. But this store has been a constant in my life for the better part of two decades. It’s going to feel strange to shop without going there.

Part of me wants to keep Anya from seeing the store like this. But maybe it would provide her some measure of closure. Just as I needed to see it, one last time. The kids still have Christmas money they’ve not spent; perhaps I will take them to buy one last toy there.

It’s not goodbye forever. There are other Targets. And this is an important lesson for her, for Kai, for me: Nothing lasts forever, but just because something good ends doesn’t mean something good won’t take its place.

We’ll miss it, though. The store and everyone who worked there. It’s in many ways the end of an era.

We’re still talking about it because it still needs to be said

My ex-husband doxxed me, several years after our divorce.

Maybe doxxing isn’t the correct term. He didn’t have to search for my contact information; he knew it. Because he’d been my husband. It was his former address and phone number he gave out on his MySpace page, exhorting his readers to “do with it what you will.” For the sake of simplicity, I’ll call it doxxing.

I wouldn’t have ever known he’d done it, but as time passed after our divorce my anger toward him had softened. I had loved him once, after all. It was only natural that I wonder how he was doing. He’d moved away after our divorce, and we had no friends in common, so I had no idea what became of him.

A few seconds on Google led me to his MySpace. (This was before Facebook was a thing grown-ups used.) And his diatribes against me. Plus my full name, home address and phone number, and a challenge that, thankfully, his readers/friends did not take him up on.

I’d have felt better if someone had called him out on that post. But perhaps they did that privately. He had some pretty classy friends. I was sorry to lose them in the divorce.

I was sorry to lose him, too. At first. The failure of our marriage baffled and broke me. I went over and over everything in my mind. How had it all gone so very wrong?

The sour notes were few and far between in the early days of our relationship. He was sweet and loving and thoughtful, a little shy. Only occasionally an ass, so I brushed off those moments. A year later he proposed, and the mask began to crack. He spent so much of the six months between our engagement and marriage bashing me that I was flabbergasted to hear him say nice things about me during the premarital counseling sessions. I suspected he feared the minister would refuse to marry us if he told the truth.

Why did I still marry him? Well, I was young. Had less self-esteem than a potted plant. Wanted more than anything to be a wife and a mother. And I was really, really great at making excuses for him. Growing up, I had been told that no relationship was perfect. To expect little, forgive much. So I told myself he was stressed out about his new job, the wedding, the move. Things would get better. I could be better.

I tried to be better. But it was never enough.

The summer after we were married, I missed a period. He fumed and fretted until I took a pregnancy test. Then three more. Then had me call my doctor when I failed to start, so sure was he that I was pregnant. He wanted me to have an abortion. He didn’t want to deal with the hassle and expense of a baby.

I wasn’t pregnant, as it turned out. But my eyes had been opened to a side of him I could not unsee.

Ten months into the marriage, I reconnected with an old friend. While we were catching up on each other’s lives, he asked me how married life was. I told him it was an adjustment. Which is apparently what I’d said the last time he’d asked that question, shortly after the wedding. He asked me if I was happy. I finally admitted that I was not.

One final fight, at New Year’s. I ended up at my parents’. And I told them what was going on, after hiding it for the better part of two years. They were horrified. I’d hid well, it seems.

I went home the next day and told him I couldn’t go on like we had been. He said he would attend counseling, but he wasn’t going to help find the counselor, would not pay for counseling, and would not attend counseling sessions led by a member of any religious organization. He also told me he would not change, because “you knew what you were getting into when you married me.”

So I divorced him.

It’s only now, as I look back from outside it all, that I see how wrong the whole relationship was. How he gave me just enough affection to keep me from leaving and told me I was lucky to get it. How great he was at lying to everyone. Including, I imagine, himself.

I think back on the stories he told me of his ex. How he’d harped on how irritating she was, how fat, how stupid. How shocked he was when she left him.

Some time later, I watched a video of a guy gaslighting his girlfriend and saw in him my ex. Still, I’d never have thought he’d go so far as to dox me. I underestimated him.

Until you’ve been doxxed, you don’t realize how frightening it is. I was a young woman living alone, with no family or friends close by. He opened me up to all manner of violations, out of spite and pettiness, years after our split. In his MySpace posts, he talked about how he’d found love again and was so much happier than he’d been with me. Yet he tried to inflict harm on me, simply because he could.

It’s only now that I’ve moved and have a different phone number and name that I even feel brave enough to admit on a public forum what he did to me. Part of me is still nervous, to be honest. When someone who was so close to you violates your trust like that, it’s a little difficult to feel completely safe ever again.

I’ll likely never understand why my ex treated me the way he did. What it says about him as a person. But I would be willing to bet that he hates that Gillette commercial. Or that he gives it lip service but resents it privately. Because he’s the kind of guy who believes everything’s stacked against him. He thinks his failures are the result of external, rather than internal, factors. He sees himself as a victim, not a perpetrator.

Sound familiar?

My son is sitting on my lap as I type this. My sweet, loving boy, who still look at me like the sun rises and sets on my face. I consider it an important function of my job as his mother to make sure he doesn’t grow up to be the kind of guy who would be offended by the Gillette ad. I want him to be the kind of person who stands up against misogynists and bullies, even if those people are his friends. But I sincerely hope his friends don’t pull that crap, either. It’d be great if that sort of behavior were an embarrassing moment in history by the time my son is grown.

Let’s see what we can do about that, hm?