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Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy

The First Father’s Day | no. 0035

Munchkin, after riding in his stroller for the first time, hangs out with Daddy enjoying all the outdoor performances at Dance Africa.

Munchkin, after riding in his stroller for the first time, hangs out with Daddy, enjoying all the outdoor performances at Dance Africa.

“This one. Use this picture for the Wednesday’s Bloom Father’s Day post,” my partner says.

“Oh. There’s going to be a Father’s Day post?” I ask, eyebrows raised.

“Yeah, you know. You gotta do one about the munchkin’s dad,” he says.

I smile at this. I do not typically talk about him in this series because I am very clear that these are my stories, my words, my process. Even if I wanted to, I could not speak for my partner’s journey and experience as a father. It is important to me that even as we are deeply engaged in our familymaking, these stories I write are not jointly told. We will both pass on very distinct narratives to the munchkin and his future siblings. We will tell them our truths in the ways that make sense to us. We will see different things and develop different memories.

That said, my partner still trusts me to tell some part of his story. And he LOVES to read the comments following any post I write about him because he doesn’t have his own facebook page.

In previous posts I have sometimes referred to my partner as Oscar, but I am undecided about whether to continue that name  for him in my writing. I think that it’s less about the actual name and more that I am not ready to tell our partnership story in this public space. Our union is still so new, even as we have spent some years already together. I am continuously finding language for everything I/we are experiencing. I realize that I was very active in my mothering work for many years before the munchkin’s birth. And so when he was born, I had what felt like a galaxy of words with which to begin crafting these stories about mother and son. But my tongue was thoroughly tied when it came to articulating the layered and nuanced elements of our relationship. I felt I needed to give our partnership room to grow, time to come into it’s own form, before I could write about it as honestly as I do my mothering.

My partner loves being a father. He taught the munchkin how to laugh, one of the most important life skills we must have. He makes music with the munchkin everyday, singing, drumming, playing the pandero and the berimbau. He is studying the capoeira, the African-Brazilian martial art. This is his life’s work and he will be a mestre one day. It makes him happy that the munchkin smiles whenever he pulls out the instruments. Whenever my partner is practicing around the seated munchkin, he traces his father’s feet and hands around the floor as the movements make interesting angles above his head.

The munchkin has taught his father to look up and into the trees. They go on long walks in search of the best canopy-effect in our neighborhood that is not a rainforest. They listen to the birds chatter, watch the squirrels negotiate limbs and electric lines, and consider the unique pattern of each leaf. There are no duplicates in nature.

Women smile back at the father-son duo. My partner enjoys all the attention when he is wearing the munchkin in the carrier. Every week they walk a little further. He comes back with a sleeping baby and tells me all they saw on their adventure. I ask them what they talked about on their journey. It’s usually some passionate discussion about art, politics, and history. About black boys, hip hop, and the urgency of protecting one’s Achilles’ tendon.

The munchkin knows when his father is home. Even before the key is in the door, he stops what he’s doing, and looks intently out toward the hallway awaiting his father. When he sees him him he breaks out into a thousand watt smile. Even if he is nursing, he will come off the breast and wait expectantly for his father to greet him.

Most mornings the munchkin is sleeping when his father leaves for work. I, of course, am trying to prolong my baby’s sleep for as long as possible. Still his father will give the munchkin no less than 10 noisy kisses before heading out. Sometimes this wakes the munchkin and mommy does not have great success undoing his wide eyes and eager smile.

When the munchkin sees his father, he sees adventure, play, and music. He knows there’s somewhere exciting to go, something new to do. This makes me feel good because I am not always up for going out. When I’m deep into my writing, I appreciate that my partner will happily take the munchkin on a stroll and make sure he gets fresh air and sunshine.

As parents we don’t agree on everything. This is not a new phenomenon of parenting, but it’s challenging living these differences in real time. We were raised in some ways similar, and in other ways the complete opposite. So many things we thought “for sure” would be the way for our children are now in constant question and revision. This is tiring work, but hopeful work. We always learn something new, open another door of understanding after each argument.

I think one of the biggest adjustments to familymaking for my partner has been to not resist, but to embrace the space of disagreements. This is an ongoing thing, but he has been working really hard to be a better listener and take responsibility for expressing his feelings. There are no mind readers here. It’s natural; we are not always going to be on the same page. And this is not a bad thing. This is a sharing-life-with-someone thing. The munchkin is also watching and listening to us stumble our way through this intense work. He is learning that conflict happens in a family. As he matures and becomes more aware, we are tasked with finding the most peaceful way through the storm. And even when we can’t see it, or don’t want to see the clearing, we still have to show him that facing what challenges us and communicating with each other is how we grow a loving, healthy, vibrant family.

The munchkin has awakened from his morning nap. It’s time to help him present his Father’s Day gift that he miraculously “put together” last night while he was sleeping. We are going to have a great day celebrating his father. This is beautiful work we are doing as a family. I am very proud of us. We have come a long way on this road of turbulence, faith, and abundance. Still so many more joys and growing pains– but way more joys I think– ahead.

Giving much thanks to all. Happy Father’s Day blooms to wonderful people!

~~~

The munchkin, my first born, was born on a Wednesday. Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy is an ongoing multi-media documentary project about my process as a mother. Today’s story is a part of Volume 1, 73 consecutive weeks of posts, spanning about the first year and a half of the munchkin’s life. Each episode explores my weekly discoveries, challenges, questions, and hopes as a mother. I also facilitate the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop for all mothers and women active in their mothering work who are excited about cultivating their own writing practices.

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