I don’t think I’ve told you guys about my tadpoles. If you follow me on Instagram (@stella_hb) then you will have seen the precious babies (yes, this is how I feel about my tadpoles) on my stories.
We were naughty and ‘borrowed’ some frog spawn from a neighbour – you’re meant to wait for the frogs to come to you, but having realised (been reminded, thanks Linda) that our children were no longer of drowning age and dug the pond, I wanted tadpoles NOW.
I thought all the spawn had died in the late frosts, and then two weeks later – tadpoles! Everywhere! I visit them every day, take photos/videos, scrutinise them for the appearance of legs, and praise how fat they are getting (in a weird reversal of western beauty standards). I can’t wait until the pitter patter of tiny frogs.
The best thing about having a teenager is having to defend your own parenting decisions to an ungrateful compassionless apple-of-your-own-eye. Did I say the best thing?
The other day, my oldest asked why I let them do so much gaming. Apparently one of their friends had asked how my kid had negotiated this Elysium. For most of the week, unless they are eating or doing their jobs, they are ‘allowed’ on screen.
I’m negotiating for more ‘time away’ but I’ll have to exchange it for weekend virtual sleepovers.
You might be judging me here, and I don’t mind. I judge myself, too.
All my oldest’s friends are online. They’ve had a pretty hard time of it, even before lockdown. So I might feel bad, but I’m going to let them game. They are doing stuff they find difficult every day.
I’m not a gamer. Not really.
However, I make an exception for an obscure little puzzle game called Chain Cube. You bash cubes with the same numbers on them into each other, and then they make another cube with the sum total of the numbers. My current score is 12564886.
I’m playing it less now. In those cranky days of home-learning, when the children needed me there, not to teach, not to do it for them (probably because I said I wouldn’t), but just to be in the room while they worked. Sometimes I had to sit in-between their two rooms.
It was the perfect activity. I could always be interrupted – and was, always – but I wasn’t sitting staring at the wall, waiting to be told that this spelling or that maths was too difficult.
Thanks Chain Cube. Sanity saver.
Having trans kids requires a very particular kind of parenting. One of the things that happens – and there are A LOT of things that happen, not all of them are this good – is that (some) people tell me I’m wonderful.
I know! How very dare they?
Thing is, I don’t want, nor do I deserve, a medal. What, for accepting that my kids are who they say they are? I’d like to think, if you’re reading this, you would do the same for yours.
Yeah, maybe I go out to bat for them most days. Sometimes sticking up for them means I get hurt. Lose people I love, distance myself from others. But: I still get to walk around this world as a cis woman. My life is, and always will be, easier than theirs.
That’s part of cis privilege.
‘Do adults still say nasty things about me?’
‘I don’t know. Not to me, but I don’t see them anymore.’
‘Remember when XXX’s Mum said she wasn’t allowed to play with me anymore?’
‘Yes. I do. She was always very supportive. To our faces.’
‘Why don’t you like XXX anymore?’
‘Well, she said some horrible things about trans kids.’
‘What did she say?’
‘I don’t want to tell you. It’ll upset you.’
‘No it won’t. Tell me.’
‘OK. She implied that if you shared a room at a residential you would rape your room-mate.’
‘I’m sorry. It’s not true. Obviously.’
‘You’re also 11 years old!’
‘I can’t say the word I want to say. So I’m just going to mouth it.’
‘Sorry, love. I do try to keep you away from all this sort of stuff.’
The sun came out and
we were allowed to have people over in the garden and
they could be from another local authority area and
I made gluten free vegan brownies and
the kids played with nerf guns and
I hate toy guns and
I didn’t care and
I made tea and
Mr HB made coffee and
we bitched about stuff and
we did the crossword together and
we laughed and
we looked at the tadpoles and
the tadpoles are getting bigger and
they are moving around more too and
kids all played really well together and
later on we went down to the river and
it is really beautiful here and
today it is cloudy again and
I feel tired but it’s the good sort of tired and
I am so lucky to have had such a lovely day.
Given my poetry pamphlet is now sold out (thank you to everyone who bought a copy), I thought I would record the poems for my much-neglected YouTube channel. Here is a transcript of the first one,
Quickened pain, surprising me
out of all birth plans
and breathing techniques
and the crickets of the TENS
machine crawling up my back.
I had woken early
completed the lists:
paired socks, as my pelvis
pentangled like pulled knitting.
And all too soon
the burn, the squeeze, the heft
was beyond unbearable
you released –
a tide of meaning
into the world.
My last born.
Completing this compost
Never forget how you came:
child of mine.
Never be afraid to labour, and
never push down pain to places you cannot feel it.
My paternal grandmother will be 100 this year. My mother died 13 years ago. My father, in a blend of grieving his wife and tending to his mother, has taken to giving his children pieces of family significance with every visit. At some point, he gave me a sugar bowl my grandmother purchased when she visited my parents shortly after my birth.
It’s a piece of pink English pottery. It is painted with a pastoral scene. It was once broken and glued back together, although one small piece was never found, so there is a small chip in the unlikely place of the middle of the bowl. I use the sugar bowl daily, although it doesn’t technically contain sugar. I say technically because I use a sugar substitute. Not everything my father hands off to us is quite as appreciated.
What is so holy about the blood from a womb?
And am I then, a non-woman, an un-woman? For tabletting these days away with modern medicine we are meant to feel guilty about, because Christianity, because feminized fish?
Because I wear my hair short, never wear a dress flowing red or black, because I do not limit women to cis white sock robots, because I include my trans sisters and my enby siblings, because the patriarchy is delighted when we police each other’s clotted tampons.
When we accidently leave out those who have had hysterectomies over hysteria of a battered woman who needs a shelter, who was never a man in the first place.
All humans bleed. Some more than your soaked gusset, your baby-home-nest clear out. Your curse does not give you the right to cast legislation over others.
It won’t be long now – I know, I’ve done nothing but whine about them being home. Now I’m sort of wondering if I’ll look back on home-learning with a tear in my eye. Like this lunchtime, I thought, ‘this is one of the last lunches you’ll have together in term time, isn’t that sad?’ My kids, however, are nothing if not reliable. Within five minutes they were screaming at each other about something screen-related, I assume. Which I won’t miss AT ALL. It’s been awful and exhausting – I never thought my children would cry daily after babyhood was over. At that same time, I’ve loved slowing down with them, focussing on them above everything else, getting right into what they are into (Star Dew Valley rules btw). I’ll wave them off joyfully but I wouldn’t give this time back, either.