Lord Beric

I love dogs, like love love dogs. In fact, I dream of retirement on a farm with so many dogs. Enough to fill the fields and enjoy the wonders of the land.

I have always lived with a dog, starting with the day I was born. First, there was Bruno, a German Shepherd who spent his days protecting our family and his nights wooing the neighborhood females while outrunning the dog catcher. He was my first understanding of someone who was dying of old age. I used to go downstairs before bed to tell him goodnight. And I’d tell him that if he had to die that night, it was ok and we loved him.

Then came Sally, a black lab mix who thrived on pizza, candy, getting her nails done, and photo shoots on the picnic table. I taught her as many tricks as I could including how to take the parts of my dinner I didn’t want to eat and to chew them quietly under the table.

Shortly after, there was Brandy. A Frankenstein-like mixed breed who was put together all wrong, except her brain was on point and she was smart, opinionated, and clever. She liked baseball, water bowls, telling the other dogs what to do, and trying to kill our pet rabbit.

Next was Cody. We chose him out of a bathtub full of black lab puppies. I picked each and every one up to see which one we wanted. I turned around and my Mom was holding him, his head on her shoulder and we just knew. Cody lived through much including two torn acls, a near fatal spider bite, and wood floors. He loved my mom, figuring out his next path to relieve his floor anxiety, stealing food, and not sleeping. Like ever. We’re pretty sure he never actually slept. Cody was the last dog my parents owned.

When I was on my own, I found him. A golden orange mixed breed with a sweet face and the softest ears. We (my partner and I who learned that day that I make a decision and run at it) named him Carter. He was trouble, and I learned quickly how to guess which household item he’d consume next…duct tape, shampoo bottles, deodorant, my sister’s wedding necklace, playstation controllers, camisoles, season 5 of 24, and many more. He loved to play, hike, walk, eat, cuddle, and get lost. His first companion with us was a mini french lop rabbit named Rocky. They were friends, until Rocky lived out the last bit of his 9th year into old age.

So, we decided to find him another companion and headed to a no-kill shelter with Carter in tow. My partner saw her first. A small black and brown rottie mix hanging in the back of her cage. She looked at me and didn’t really say hi, but I agreed to meet her. She walked into the room and sat in my partner’s lap. He was convinced and so was I. She met Carter in their play area in the back. She kept trying to get his attention but he was too focused on peeing in all of the baby pools. But they were convinced he tolerated her, so home she came.

As I was pulling out of the parking lot, it started. The barks, play, romping, in the back of the car. We panicked and laughed, glad that Carter finally acknowledged her. We named her Penny, show name Not Penny’s Boat. She still warms our hearts at 9 years of age. She loves barking at absolutely nothing, fried chicken, donuts, sunbathing, and me (yes, she ended up picking me anyway).

We love dogs, and have had many. But somehow this past June we forgot all about these lovable quirky qualities that you have to train through or learn to live with. Because we decided now was a good time to adopt a second dog. In a pandemic. When we’re all home all of the time. And with a 2 yo who was just coming of age in their “terrible twoness.”

We connected with a local rescue and they matched us with a cattle dog mix who was blind in one eye. He fit all of our criteria except his energy level was a little higher than we had wanted. But we’ve got this, we’ve dealt with so much before in dogs. He was so sweet when we met him, and good with the kids, so home he came.

Then, we came inside. And they started “playing.” We were convinced they might be trying to kill each other, but we couldn’t tell. It went on well into the night, followed by telling him over and over that he could not sleep in our bed. We finally won about midnight, only to then have him wake us up at 5am. Penny just rolled over and went back to bed. I got up with him the first day. Then, he hit repeat. Every day.

His energy level was beyond what we expected. And he nipped, a lot. He herded us like cattle and just wouldn’t stop.

We put our heads together and called a trainer and reached out to the adoption group to ask for help. They said they are indeed playing, just loudly and roughly. My daughter says it’s like watching a fight between a grizzly bear and a black jaguar. The trainer helped us think of ways to keep him calmer, busy, and stimulated.

I was worried we couldn’t keep him. My partner kept saying how he just wanted another Penny. I reminded him that the perfect dog is always older than 5 years and has been living with you just as long. Penny’s favorite pastime these days is sunbathing on the deck during her nap.

But we committed, and we named him Bear. Short for his show name Lord Beric Dogdarrion. His show name may actually come in handy one day as my oldest is convinced she is going to train him on agility and he will be on tv.

But as I type, this little red heeler is curled up next to me sound asleep. On my bed none the less. But we’re doing it. He loves to wake up at 5:30am, eat dirt and cardboard, ride in the car, steal the kids’ toys, and snuggle, with full on doggie hugs.

We’ve learned that we can work together to make this work. We’ve learned that we can always say no, even though this time we stuck with our yes. And we’ve learned it’s easy to forget all of the hard stuff about dogs after the years, because we love them so. However, we know this loud, rambunctious, attention demanding, lovable puppy is and will be “the perfect dog.” And will remain so until he’s 29 (I haven’t told my partner, but the longest living dog ever was a cattle dog who lived until 29…picture my daughter at age 34 telling her friends that her childhood dog just died…)

In the meantime, look for us soon on tv. If you’ve read about my daughter, you already knew she’ll make this happen. Lessons start in a couple of weeks!

“Thank you Mommy”

“Ooh, hi Mommy! Shower good?” my youngest asked as I walked out of the bathroom.

“It was good, thank you baby,” I replied.

Our two kids are so different in how they approach the world. In a 2 and 1/2 year old person, we can already see how they are becoming their own in the world. And how the parts of their personality stick out in ways much different than their sister.

When our oldest was little, getting her to say please was a real task. Even today, she only uses it if she’s not getting what she wants in the moment. Or if she’s been asked to say it. You may have feelings about this, I certainly do. But we came to realize some important things about our kids, namely that they are not tiny versions of us. My partner and I are very good at being good. This simply means that we are polite, let others go first, sacrifice ourselves often, and we follow nearly all of the social rules. It’s bred into us and it’s also important to us in developing relationships. But this is how we do that. Not everyone does.

Our oldest is in this world to ram her way through it. And with purpose and intention. She doesn’t mean to hurt anyone along the way, but she does sometimes. Instead of teaching her politeness and to hold back, we’re teaching her to look back and to make sure everyone is all right. Empathy and sympathy for the experience of others.

You might think that with very little pleases and thank yous, she might be a bit of a wild child, troublemaker even. She is, at times, but always with purpose. But she’s also incredibly caring. She tells people what to do, not just because she enjoys the art of management, but because she really wants others to get it right, or have the same experience as her. She wants others to feel what she feels. And she wants them to win and feel proud too. She’s going to be the best friend her friends will ever have.

Our littlest approaches life a bit differently. They are determined, precise, and tend to like some sense of order. But only in the sense of the world being set up in the way that works for them. They give my partner their hat when its not on his head, because they see Dad as wearing their hat more often than not. So the hat must need to be on his head.

They also love the response of us being pleased with them. They quickly attached themselves to the art of language and repeat what we say much of the time. For weeks, they spent many parts of the day saying “thank you mommy” or “sorry mommy.” They are navigating the social cues in the world, while my daughter is setting them.

This little human is finding their way, behind the fire that is their sister. And they are making their own path. I think it’s time to write about them more often.

Black Lives Matter

She’s been having trouble sleeping. There is a lot to worry about these days. And it’s all taking form in the minutes after she lays down to sleep. I know this all too well.

The other night, she came out and said she was scared. We asked her what she was scared of. And she told us the protest she went to, and specifically the police…

Back in May and June, local protests were planned everywhere. Most were too far to go for us, as I only had a limited window of time for our two-year-old. But then, one was planned nearby during their nap. It was organized by some local high school kids, in collaboration with a local advocacy group. It was a protest march from their school into the next neighboring city. I asked my oldest if she wanted to go.

She said yes, but I told her it could only work if we put some safety measures into place. Here is what I told her.

“You have to hold my hand the whole time. If I say run, you run with me, not questions asked. If we get separated, find another protestor and ask them to call me. We will put your Dad’s cell phone number in your shoe in case I get taken away. Or a person can’t reach me. The police are not your friends this day, do not go to them. Go to another person walking and ask for help. The police may look different than you’re used to. They may be wearing special outfits that are all black. They may wear helmets or facemasks. And you may see their guns. There also may be people there who disagree with us. They may also have guns or yell things at us. Do not look at them, ever. Always stay with me and look at me.”

She was in.

The day before we made some signs and planned out the schedule. The morning of, she dressed in all black. We slipped both mine and her Dad’s phone numbers into her shoe. For back-up, we wrote her Dad’s in sharpie on her leg under her pants. Dad was on call and had his phone handy in case anyone called. He knew to answer all calls and he knew that I might call if I needed someone to witness something.

We packed our masks, some water, our signs, and headed out. There were hundreds of people. She was nervous, worrying about her mask and feeling like her sign was too heavy. But she liked seeing some of the other kids, pets, and lots of people.

“Where are the police?” she asked.

I pointed to the top of the hill. They had minor riot gear on, just vests, dark clothes and walkies.

After some speakers, we started to walk. I kept her towards the back and on the outside of the group so we could step out if we needed too. She clung to my hand, and walked carefully. We switched our signs a couple of times to change it up. One said “Black Lives Matter” in her handwriting. The other said “Say Their Names” and we listed so many people who were murdered by police.

We had to get back for my youngest, so we couldn’t do the whole protest walk. When we reached our stopping point, she decided she wanted to support the rest of the protestors. On the side of the road, she held up her sign with unwavering intention, straight-faced yet waving at people and cars. Many honked and gave her a thumbs up. When the last car pulled up, a person in a car across the street slowed down and called her a terrorist. I told her it was time to go and explained that this person was angry with our message. She knew why this person disagreed with her, as we had talked about it so many times before.

In further protest, she held the signs out of our car window the whole ride home. She then marched inside, grabbed some tape and put them on our front door. Days later, she made more, and then even more. We have to keep making more as the days go by, in order to ensure we say all of their names. That we make a statement to our community that we won’t forget. And that these people who were murdered matter.

On the day of the protest, there was little police activity. Except to handle traffic. It was that day that she realized that they always carry guns. That at every moment they are in uniform, they can kill whomever they want.

This was her nightmare. This was what makes her scared. To not feel safe from a group who she has been told repeatedly in her white schools that they are there to protect her, help her, take care of her.

My partner reminded her that night that police can be helpful. But it really depends on who asks for help, or who they are interacting with.

She experiences her privilege as a white person every second of her life. This was her first really hard glimpse into what it feels like to not feel safe in her community, by those that are advertised to protect and serve. This is her nightmare, and she knows that for her it’s short-lived. And that for people of color in this country, for the Black folx she has and is making signs for, this is their everyday. Their nightmare does not go away.

Blueberries and bees

The other day, I was stung by a bee. My parents were in town and we decided to take a trip to a farm to pick some peaches. When we got there, we learned that the peaches had been picked clean and needed to ripen. But there were still blueberries for the “die hard” pickers. So off we went to work, filling our stomachs along the way.

My oldest took charge, collecting everyone’s berries and helping us see where to pick next. My youngest was picking green unripen berries and eating them. I was in the bushes, looking for the hidden ones. My mom was all the way up the row, leaving us behind. My dad was lagging back, finding every last berry. We were all in our element, needless to say.

Then, I reached in and felt the sting. I looked at my wrist and saw the yellowjacket struggling to get its stinger loose from my body. It succeeded and flew away swiftly.

“Ouch, I just got stung by a bee,” I said.

Grabbing my arm, I thought two things. First, I apologized (out loud mind you) to the bee for disturbing them. And second, that this didn’t hurt nearly as much as I remember it.

“What happened?” I heard her say.

…Let’s go back a bit.

“Tell me about the times you were stung by a bee?” she’d asked me before bed. This was a regular ask. She wanted to learn this story in detail. So, I’d tell her about all 5-6. Sometimes, I’d remember them all, other times I’d forget one or two. She wanted to know what happened and how it happened. She was always like this. When our dog died when she was 3, she wanted to know all of the details of his death. She even asked me to show her pictures of cancer in dogs and where in his body it was. We learned early that it’s important for her to know what’s coming when we can offer that. We used to practice going to the dentist over and over before her visits. We’d share all about whatever our plans were for the day so she knew what was coming next. At first, we did it for our own benefit. We just didn’t want all of the questions and hoped for no complaining along the way. But soon we learned that this was a necessary step to her comfort. To her existence. She doesn’t always need this, as she also loves adventure. But she does not like surprises and especially ones that involve pain…

“I was stung by a bee,” I answered.

“Go get Grandma now,” she said all seriously. “Go get her, go now,” she insisted.

“I’m ok,” I said.

“No, Grandma is right there,” she said as she pointed. She was worried for me and was looking for an expert adult. I was no longer that since I was the one hurt.

I looked at her and calmly said, “I’m ok baby, it already feels better.”

“Can I see it?” she asked.

I showed her the two tiny, dark red dots on top of my wrist.

“What does it feel like?” she asked.

“Exactly what it’s called, a sting. Almost like getting a shot. It hurts when it happens but then it starts to feel better.”

She looked satisfied. I also felt grateful. This was a learning moment for her. To see that a sting wasn’t so scary, you could live through it, and that she would be all right. I feel gratitude, to share a lived experience with her, and even for that little bugger who was protecting its berries.

She skipped ahead and caught up with my mom.

“Mommy got stung by a bee,” she announced all knowingly.

She was back in her element.

My name is Kelly Baker Warner

My whole life, I’ve been so good at being good. I have shown up in the way that others have wanted me to, or how I have assumed they have wanted me to. I’m tired of being good, and my rawness is starting to seep out. So let me reintroduce myself…

My name is Kelly Baker Warner. My married name is Warner, my born name is Baker, both are descriptive of my soul. I am 38 years old. I grew up in Maryland and have also lived in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Today, I live in southern Maine on the stolen land of the Pennacook and Abanaki people. I am married to a cis-hetero man and together we have a cis-daughter and a to be determined toddler. We also have two furry pups.

I am white, my ethnicities are Swedish, Scottish, Norwegian, and English. There are stories in my family of a great grandmother who was Native American, but these stories have been lost. I am agender and use the pronouns she or they. My expression is often feminine and I exist among groups of women often. Thus, I am often assumed to be a cis-hetero woman which grants me much privilege.

Both of my parents are living and they are loving, dedicated humans to their family and this world. I have two siblings, both also dedicated to making a difference and loving as deeply as they can. We are spread all across the country and I miss them desperataly. But we are also okay in our independent ways.

I live in an able body, but often with some level of pain. And I live in a small fat body. I am recovering from decades of disordered eating and even though I am fat, I still experience thin privilege in almost nearly every area of my life.

I am a writer, an artist, a creative, an educator, a doula, a lifelong learner, and an evolutionary leader. I believe in mother earth. I believe in astrology. I believe that Black Lives Matter. That Trans Lives Matter. That Black Trans Lives Matter. That in order to dismantle the systems of oppression that we live in, we must create a world that is built for those who are oppressed within it. This includes ability, race, gender, age, sexuality, immigration status, wealth, and every other ism you can name.

I believe that capitalism is another word for racism, for oppression. That capitalism is not about opportunity and advancement, but about stepping on the necks of others in order to take.

I believe that we must abolish the police. Because I believe in a world where we take care of humans, not punish them. That we do not throw people away. Thus, I believe in prison abolition. And I believe in transformative justice.

I believe that our health system is corrupt, bought, and laced with inequities that kill people of color at rates substantially higher than white folks. And I believe that this system is killing us white folks too.

I believe that fatphobia is really racism. And that the diet industry, the health industry, the clean eating industry is a sham. I also believe that we judge each other harshly. That this is a country of trolling, healthism, and oppression. But, I also believe that all bodies are beautiful. That all food is good food that can nourish our survival. And, I believe that hunger is a symptom of a drive to survive, not a failure of willpower.

I believe our bodies have all the wisdom we need and that capitalism, individualism, and oppression have taught us to doubt this.

I believe in free healthcare, free childcare, paid leave, paying people a liveable wage, and that no one should be a millionaire let alone a billionaire.

I believe in the wisdom of our elders. I believe that my white ancestors have stripped my understanding of the past, in their silence of stories that are too important not to share. That their shame has kept them silent when sharing this shame is actually what sets us free.

I believe survivors. Every time.

I believe that this earth is hurting, we are hurting it. And that it’s our job to make our peace with her. To see how we can reconnect as we watch her course correct time and time again.

I believe in revolutionary love. And not the kind of love that we all tout as the answer to oppression. But the kind of deep love that allows us to see ourselves in others, to know that we are all the same but not the same. That every life means something. That we ask for change because of revolutionary love. That we are angry because of revolutionary love. That there is interconnectedness between us all, and in the words of Valarie Kaur “you are a piece of me that I do not yet know.”

I believe that my kids are my greatest teachers. That in them, I can see me, and through them I can see how my healing is impacting the future of this world. That through them, I experience joy and wonder, and reconnect with my imagination, all essential to our surival. It’s through them that I remember what it’s like to experience this world for the first time, second time.

And so I write about them, because I want others to hear their teachings too.

Damn, it feels good to write again

I’ve been away for six months. In early 2020, I attended a retreat to vision the year ahead. I was struggling, just thinking about the simple tasks I wanted to complete. What were my values and how was I meeting them? I was forced to confront this. And it became so clear to me, the exhaustion. Of living every day for someone else. Almost never for me. So I decided I was going to “rest.” I stopped writing, and have not written until this post. I stopped participating in groups and events that did not immediately serve me. That did not bring me an overwhelming yes.

These six months have been little “rest,” but they have been filled with transformation. In some ways, the ask to stay home to avoid COVID has been a gift. A gift that has allowed me to find time to work on me, and also to spend time with my partner and kids.

But let’s be real, not much of 2020 so far has been much of a gift. Insight maybe. Change for sure. But no loss of life that could have been prevented by systemic intervention is a gift. This has been a time of unveiling. Pulling back the curtain on the society, systems we live in. And I believe it’s not done.

So the gift isn’t just the time I have spent. But also in that I have had my own unveiling. I have found no excuse not to pull back the curtain on how I have been living my life.

And I am here, eager to start again. Finding my way out from rest. In some ways, moving out of the cocoon into the stage of drying my wings. I have so much to share. And I’ll start with a few things.

I cut off most of my hair. It’s the shortest it has even been. And it feels so free. In contrast, my legs are covered in hair. I have realized that I don’t care to shave them. It is rooted in my oppression, so I have stopped.

I have gained weight, intentionally. To heal from disordered eating. I can now be called small fat, moving from a chubbier frame to one of fatness. I am working so hard to find my home here, to find power in this larger body. The irony I am reminding myself, is that the world wants me to shrink nearly everywhere I go. But where my heart resides, in resistance, the pursuit of justice and equity, space is essential. And the more you take up, the more impact you can have.

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I am healing, medicating, and finding balance, love and joy in this body and life I am in.

I now use the pronouns she or they. More to come on this. For now, I ask you to consider seeing me as without, seeing me for being a human who chooses to live in this world full of space, love, tenderness, and an unyielding desire to change this world.

Even if it’s just one piece of writing at a time.

Intuitive eating…post #2

I’ve been in the dark. And I’ll admit that writing, sharing has been hard lately.

Not only has the world turned dark, and cold, but so has my body. When I took on the healing process to find my intuitive eater, I was told that emotions might arise. And they have erupted.

There is an interesting thing that our bodies do when they experience emotional and psychological pain and we don’t process it. Our bodies manifest it. Into our bones, our muscles, our nerves.

My body, like so many, holds all sorts of trauma. Over the years, the layers have built up, some so deep I have forgotten all about them. I’m in pain alot. A sore back from an old injury horseback riding. A twisted hip that won’t let go since cradling the growing life of my first born 7 years ago. The achy feet from an imablance in posture, cracky shoulders from a back that tries so hard, a weak wrist from picking up my kids over and over and over.

When first learning about non-restrictive eating in The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner, I read that it is time to feel. “Feel what?” is all I thought. She instills a practice of body attention everyday. Taking five minutes to notice what you feel in your body and to look at it, study it, notice it. Not fix it, never to fix it, but to simply feel it.

In the Intuitive Eating workbook, there is an activity where you sit quietly and try to feel your heartbeat within you. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this is the first time I consciously felt it inside of me. I now do it often, it is actually quite grouding to remember that this muscle keeps on pumping no matter what’s happening around it.

I’ve also learned that I emotionally eat at times. Food helps me to feel better when I’m frustrated, sad, or even bored. This is not an uncommon practice, and not necessarily even a bad one. But I’ve noticed it and worked to find other ways to self-care in these moments.

I mention all this, because when you stop to feel your body, listen to what it’s saying, and you take away a numbing comfort, you start to feel.

And these feelings have been erupting out of me. I am in a lot of physical pain as this body screams at me what I have silenced for so long. I am exhausted, all the way to the point that the thought of movement feels overwhelming most of the time. My body needs rest, rest for all of the missed moments of rest. My body needs rest, for all of the pain it needs to heal. My body needs tender care and love, warmth, massage, showers, essential oils, all that I can offer it as it heals.

And my heart has been healing. These past two months have been an overdrive of emotions. I have remembered and felt through trauma, and I’m talking little things I have beaten myself up over for decades.

So I haven’t been writing.

I have been parenting. And my kids are brilliant. I haven’t had the best words to share with them why my emotions are so up and down, but I have had the love and care to apologize when I need to, to explain when I feel frustrated before I act, and to ask for moments by myself.

Returning to intuitive eating is so hard. I so often want to walk away. But I remember that I am untangling knots from decades of diet culture, centuries of generational trauma, and years of painful dieting I have inflicted on myself.

I can say many things about why I’m still in, but here are a few.

  • My daughter eats with more confidence than I have ever seen, trying new things and communicating about her fullness and needs.
  • I am letting go of the need to have zero waste with all food.
  • Food is becoming nourishment instead of comfort.
  • Dinner time is a place of deep and loving inquisitions instead of food battles.
  • I love this body more now than I ever have, and it’s a body I have feared for so much of my life.*
  • This body, although working through so much, is startimg to feel like home.

Until I write again…

*I need to acknowledge something here. I have always been afraid of gaining too much weight and I am now in the body that I used to fear. And this is still a straight-sized, highly privileged body. I can’t say this without also saying that this journey is a constant unpacking of my fatphobia towards myself and this world. When we, or I, fear a body for myself that is still not like the body of so many others, we marginalize those bodies. Both in this world and in our minds. The love I am working on for my own body is a love inclusive of all bodies no matter what size. I am releasing the fear of all body sizes as I embrace my own. I am standing in the belief that all bodies are worthy of love, praise, admiration, care, joy, and humanity. I invite you to do the same.

So many questions…

When I was teaching sex ed, I worked with parents on how to talk with their kids when hard questions came up. The answer is always to answer matter of factly with truth and honesty. Then wait. Kids will ask a follow up if they don’t understand or ask nothing more if their curiosity is satisfied. What you don’t want to happen is that they don’t ask another question because you have either just stretched the truth or shut down their question entirely. Kids know, and then they won’t ask again.

I work really hard to instill this with my kids, answering away as the questions come up. I want to share a series of questions from the other night, a seven minute drive home from a gas station…just so you know you’re not alone.

“Why don’t we celebrate Kwanzaa or Hanukkah?”

“Can we celebrate them?”

“Do we know anyone who does celebrate them?”

“Who?”

“Why can’t we celebrate Kwanzaa, again?”

“Why do we celebrate Christmas, again?”

“What is Christian?”

“What is Daddy?”

“What are you?”

“Well then what am I?”

“I have a question not about Christmas…how do people decide who is going to change their last name when they get married?”

“Do you have to have a last name?”

“What about if a boy marries a boy?”

“Or a girl marries a girl?”

“Why can’t brothers and sisters get married again?”

“What does it mean that babies have differences when they are born?”

“How does that happen?”

“Then who am I going to marry?”

“One more…can a person have a baby and not be married?”

Cue dinner a few minutes later…

“I think I should be a scientist because I really like to ask questions, huh Mom?”

A bathroom disagreement

I had a nerve-wracking incident come up the other day – an email from the school counselor expressing concern about something my daughter did. Very simply, in a hall bathroom she shared a stall with another student. They each went to the bathroom and then proceeded to play around in the bathroom instead of going back to class right away.

This warranted a discussion with the principal for both kids. My mind immediately went to work and I created a narrative of what they must be thinking. And I got angry. And quickly. In my head, I was sure that the main issue had to be that they peed in the same stall together. That this is inappropriate. That goodness forbid kids participate in a non-sexual activity as non-sexual beings in a shared space.

As a sexuality educator, trained curriculum developer and an advocate for the rights of kids and adolescents in a shunned sexualized world, let me be clear about a couple things here. I assumed that these kids were seen as bad for peeing in the same stall because in this society, naken bodies are wrong. And it’s not because these kids were inherently doing something out of their development, it’s because society assumes they are. As adults, we have lived past childhood into a sexualized world and body. And we can’t seem to unsee that, even in our kids. What they did was completely normal, but we still make it so much more than that.

After talking with my kid, it was even more evident that these two kids were incredibly respectful and responsible in the space they shared. There was an invitation to share a stall, without pressure. With consent. And they respected privacy boundaries by each turning their backs while the other actually used the toilet.

To me, the issue was that they broke a school rule. There is only one kid per stall. And they are not to play in the bathroom. This alone is not a principal needed response. It’s a simple discipline response, a reminder even, to not play in places you shouldn’t.

But I was led to believe that there was a larger issue here, that I should be concerned and that my kid is at fault because she invited the friend into the stall.

How often do we as parents share a stall with our kids? How often do siblings share stalls? Young friends? My kid and the friend have shared a stall before, on playdates, under parental supervision of myself and the other parent. And they respected and set personal boundaries there as well.

I know that the school needs to take things seriously because there could be a parent on the opposite side of me – seeing this through a sexualized lens and panicking. But isn’t that the problem? The system is failing us here. If this is not handled correctly, she may in fact feel shame and confusion about why it’s not ok to be around a friend in a bathroom when she did all that she has learned to establish her own needs and boundaries. Why is that not enough?

This morning, she said to me that she’s never been to the principal’s office before because she is not “usually bad.” I told her that she did nothing bad, that she broke a school rule and that they want to be sure she understands. But she doesn’t understand how she’s in more trouble than usual. I tried to explain that sometimes people get nervous and upset around bodies and that this might be the case here. I want her to know that many rules are set because some people believe that kids can do bad things, that we in this family believe are not bad at all. And instead are normal kid things to do. And that sometimes, these two don’t match up.

I told her to remember that I always have her back. That when I think they are wrong at school, that I will tell them. And she plans to apologize for playing around in the bathroom and not following the stall rules.

I fully realize that as you read this, this may trigger you. You may disagree with me or how I have handled it. I invite you to challenge yourself on this. What is coming up for you? How would you handle it? How would you protect your kid?

See there isn’t really a right way or a wrong way for us in this. But we can work together to be sure that our kids do not experience shame around their bodies. And that their normal stages of development are not mistaken for deviency. Kids are explorers and in fact so many behaviors that we deem as sexual among adults are simply play among kids. Playing doctor. Showing body parts. Touching one’s own body parts. Making dolls share a bed together or be naked together. Kids are understanding the world around them. And failing to let them explore a completely natural and normal part of their development can be harmful. It can lead to shame, silence, and a lack of communication when they do participate in sexual behaviors. I am not willing to take that risk. I know that feeling all too well. I think we can do better. My kid deserves better.

Follow Up: I did speak with the school and the feeling is mutual that their reactions are often rooted in the fear of the parents. I understand and also I don’t. I challenged them to consider that this might be the larger problem. And I asked that when my kid is spoken to that they are careful not to create a sense of shame. They assured me that this would not be the case.

I also spoke with the other parent involved. And I think it’s important to note that so many of us parents are in this together, but we often don’t talk about it. We can ask more of these schools. We can make it so our kids are not shamed as a result of worry of what a parent might do. We can make it so that being a kid is normal and that when parents struggle with an incident or what’s happening with their kid, then we work together through the situation among the adults, not through our kids.

I do dream of a world for this. And look forward to when we get there. Reaching out to the other parents is so important folks. If the other parent was not on the same page as me, I could have used it as an opportunity to connect on what’s best for our kids and to be sure that both kids are safe, loved, and able to move through this. To create a stream of honest communcation when normally there is so little. And we could have still disagreed and it would all be okay.

And sure, the other parent could have been mad and asked for punishment. But also, I am not responsible for other’s reactions. We can only hold our own and offer up love and support along the way. The goal is not to be the same, but to communicate. And to take care of our kids as we see fit. I am responsible for ensuring my kid’s behavior ensures both her own and the safety of others. And sharing a bathroom with another 6 year old, with consent, and with agreed upon privacy, is not a safety issue.

Halloween candy

First read this article by Virginia Sole-Smith. “How to stay sane about Halloween candy.”

I’ll admit, I was anxious about this Halloween. How was I going to handle the candy this year with two kids, and with one who is only a toddler?

Last year, my oldest, then 5, got so much candy. And she was sooo into it. She asked for it, all the time. We limited it to a piece or two, allowing only a couple on Halloween night. She just kept asking. And I kept worrying. After about a week, I saw that a friend offered a toy in place of all but a few pieces of candy. Her kid bought into it, so I considered it too, another spin on the switch witch.

I offered for her to keep 12 pieces and to exchange the rest for a toy at Target. She thought about it and said yes. So, I watched her count out the ones she wanted, methodically trying to pick her favorites and those she deemed the best. Then, I took away the rest. Ate many myself, saved some for my partner, and tossed the rest.

She picked out a Barbie…switch witch or not, agh, I should have let her keep the candy.

“Mommy, you don’t like Barbie. Why not?” she likes to ask.

I still haven’t been able to eloquently describe the issues of body size, racism, fatphobia, sexism in way that she understands yet. But, we keep talking and she keeps liking Barbie and it’s all okay.

Fast forward to this year as I wanted to do better. I read Virginia Sole-Smith’s article, all while I am re-learning intuitive eating. So, we went with her advice. Trick or treating was last night for us. We got home, it was after bedtime for both. The one year old ate three pieces of candy. Yes, I let them. She ate probably 10-12 pieces. We could see she wanted more but negotiated bedtime instead and said she could have as much as she wants the next day too.

And that was it. Nothing else happened.

They both went to bed rather uneventfully and slept well. She woke up, she got ready for school. No tummy aches, wild energy, or tantrums. It was bliss.

And just as importantly, my intuitive eating was loud and proud as I did not sneak candy or pine for theirs. My daughter shared one piece and I felt done on this day. Fulfilled for the night. Because I am working hard to remind myself that candy is no longer a restriction, or an evil temptation that makes itself only available several times a year during the holidays.

Folx, read her article, try it. And if you read this the day after or several days after and you restricted, you can still decide otherwise. That’s the best part of parenting to me. Learning to show how I changed my mind and to say why. Try this if you need some words…

“After you went to bed, I thought about it some more. And I want you to have whatever candy you want today. It’s your candy and Halloween is a fun holiday. Let’s do it together. Show you me what you’ve got. What are your favorites? How does that one taste?…”

And read Virginia Sole-Smith’s article. Follow her on Instagram. The writing she does has been so helpful and so affirming. And to see my two kids find their own intuitive eater…or maybe I should say to see myself finally give space for their intuitive eater to show up…is bliss as a parent. Food is uncomplicated and we just enjoy it as part of our day. Battles have ceased. It’s so so worth it.