I plan to come back to blogging…. I think I will start slow by reviving Photo Wednesday. I start with this picture, taken from a car window. I love that no matter where you drive in Albania, someone is flying a flag. Sometimes two: Albanian and US.
We drove to the beach the other day, friends leading the way in their white SUV. It was a new beach, somewhere south east of the capital. I am thankful they were navigating as the road was windy, nothing was marked, and, by the end, the road was mostly gone and replaced with dust and rocks.
The two SUVs rocked back and forth, off-roading it a bit. My daughter marveled and laughed at how she could see our friends’ heads bouncing back and forth.
“Mommy,” she giggled. “My head is not bouncing like that! I am using my brain to hold it in place! You need to tell Ms. D. that she should use her brain more too!”
Solid advice, kiddo. Solid advice.
For the first year, I took my daughter to Albania’s Gay Ride Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. If we were in the US (or another country were queer people were openly accepted), I am sure she would have gone earlier. But, fear of violence has kept her at home.
This is one of the difficulties I face while trying to raise my daughter overseas. I want her to be surrounded by feminism and an understanding that women are empowered, strong, brave, self-sufficient leaders. I want her to not feel compelled to adhere to sexual and gender stereotypes. I want her feel secure being the person she wants to be. I want her to know that she can like both pink AND blue. However, she mostly just gets this message from me and a few close friends. Albanian culture is mis-teaching her about gender and sexuality.
Also complicating factors is not being visibly a queer family. What she (and the world) see are a single mother with a beautiful little girl.
Before the ride, I decided I wanted her to not just enjoy a day out in the sun and activity with Mama— I wanted her to understand why I was riding. I wanted to reiterate that love is enough and gender doesn’t matter. I wanted her to know that some people don’t believe this and that they are wrong. I wanted her to know that she can grow up to marry whoever she wishes or no one at all. I wanted her to see my gay friends as gay, not just as friends who happen to be holding hands with people the same sex. I wanted her to know that not every body comforms to the body it is born in.
So we talked.
And, at the end, I asked what she understood. She said it perfectly: “Love is love. And that is ok. And there is enough love to go around so no one should tell you not to love when you do or who you do. And, I still think it is ok that I am not gonna marry anyone because I am gonna live with Mama forever.”
A friend of a friend lent me a bike with a child seat on the backside. My nearly 4-year-old was very disappointed that this was how she would ride; she wanted to ride her own balance bike! In the end, once someone gave her a flag to wave, she enjoyed herself.
*** *** *** Today is Blogging for LGBT Families Day, an annual event sponsored by Mombian. Check out all the entries from this year! Here are my entries from other years:
- My best reason (2014); “The thing about having a kid is, she becomes the center of your universe and, ultimately, the reason you make the choices you make. Or, at least, for me, this is the case.”
- Suddenly the World Seems Like Such a Perfect Place (2013): “Love isn’t what Hollywood sells us. It isn’t just grand gestures. And song. (Well, maybe sometimes it is, if you are lucky). It also isn’t always tragic or fated. Love, the kind of love that grows families, is in the small things. It is the everyday things. It is getting up in the morning to make coffee because your partner has to. It is letting go of a bit of yourself to be there for the other. It is reminding the other who they are and supporting them in that. It is having the same interests. Laughing at little inside jokes even when they are no longer funny. Sharing values and night time diaper changes. It is feeling comfortable and safe. It is being safe.”
- Families by Choice (2011): “I sit writing this, waiting for the arrival of my daughter. As a bisexual woman married to a man, I worry about educating my child. I worry how to create a home environment that is safe, a place where she can grow up without shame, knowing who she is and who her family is. I worry about the best ways to help her grow in a bilingual, biracial household– especially when that is located in a third culture. I ponder how my messages can be stronger than societies. I worry about everyday stuff and big picture stuff.”
- Because of a Little Piece of Paper (2010): ”So often I feel this unearned privilege of having married a man thrown in my face. What if S had been a woman? My life partner very easily could have been a woman. And what protections would she have been given? The unfairness of it all burns. And, you think I exaggerate, but writing this, my eyes are welling with tears.”
- Blogging for LGBT Families (2007): “Karen Atala, a Chilean judge with three children, had her children taken away from her by the courts in 2004 when she moved in with her partner. The courts granted custody to the father, he ex-husband. Ms. Atala, being a lawyer and judge herself, appealed all the way to the Supreme Court of Chile which ruled on the basis that, “[the children] would suffer psychological harm living with Ms. Atala and her partner…[and that] they would become confused about gender roles and suffer from discrimination and isolation.” The court then nullified all her rights as a mother and gave permanent and total custody to the girl’s father forever. She is still fighting, now on an international front, to have her children returned to her.”
Don’t forget to check out other posts for 2015 Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day.
I have been debating whether or not I was going to do NaBloPoMo this year. The truth is I haven’t been blogging a lot recently. The words just aren’t there. And the ones that I need to write, are the ones that aren’t mine to say. Plus, I am traveling, and it is so much harder to blog when traveling. This was exacerbated by a decision to not bring a laptop and rather rely on my iPhone and iPad. Poor choice.
It has been so cold recently and I’m not used to the chill anymore. I thought I would post this picture on the first day of November to keep my options for NaBloPoMo open. Sadly, I just found out that today is November 2. I guess I failed before I began. Oops!
Dear Little Elephant,
Before having you, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. I knew all the health reasons behind it. I knew about all the studies of the positive effects. I knew that I wanted to have that close relationship and bonding time.
I also knew that a lot of people struggled with it. One common complaint I have heard from other breastfeeding friends is that they weren’t warned beforehand that it would hurt at first, that their nipples would become raw and even bleed. They complain that people didn’t warn them and they felt under-prepared.
People had warned me— my sister had. I know that it can be hard. I was proactive and met with a lactation consultant in the hospital who was wonderful. I am not saying it was all rosy, but I was lucky. I had a little girl with a solid latch, a solid milk supply, a good work environment, and enough support to muster through.
I had always supported women who continued breastfeeding until their kids were toddlers. It takes a huge amount of dedication. It takes having a supportive family and work environment. It takes a strong milk supply and good nutrition and discipline. I never imagined I would be one of those women!
Yesterday, my milk supply dried up. To the day, you were 3 years, 3 months old. I nursed you for 1,186 days! On the last day, you poked my chest, saying “Mama, there is no milk here”. We decided to cuddle and rock instead. Over the last few months, we have been talking about how you are a big girl now and that soon you would leave Mommy milk behind. I think you were prepared; I am just not sure I was.
I love you today more than any other. And even more tomorrow and the following. Mommy milk or no, you will always be my little girl.