Archive for the ‘Flamily’ Category

The Invisible Boy

January 21, 2009

He wants to be invisible, she tells me. When we’re out he clings to me and turns his face into my side and it’s like he wants the the whole world to look in the other direction, away from him and his weakness and his wheelchair.

She sighs. Your sister told me, when they got back from DisneyWorld, that he was unhappy in the crowds, that he was embarrassed when they couldn’t get him onto the rides, that he just wanted to hang behind everyone else and hide.

He knows, now. My mother chokes on her words. He sees himself. He sees what he thinks everyone else sees. And he hates it.

I have no response. We whisper our I love yous and hang up the phone. I have no response. I just cry.

When Tanner was diagnosed with the condition that will kill him, he was four years old. He was a boisterous preschooler with a big smile and a habit of barreling at you at top speed and knocking you down, the better to wrap his little arms around your neck and wet your cheeks with slobbery kisses. His gait was a little funny – he walked on his toes, like a wannabe ballet dancer, and lost his balance, a little, sometimes, going up stairs. But nothing that made him seem anything other than the adorable cyclone of a four-year old that he was.

But then it became clear that he wasn’t walking as well as other kids his age. A caregiver commented on the unusual shape of his calves. He continued walking on his toes. A physiotherapist was consulted. Then a doctor. Then the geneticists. And then, one evening, I got a phone call from my mother, telling me that they’d finally gotten the results of the tests and that Tanner had something called Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy. What’s that? I asked. And then my mom burst into tears, and said something incoherent about muscles and dying and I felt a chill roll down my back, I felt it run like a stream of cold water from the base of my skull and down along my spine and, with the phone tucked between my ear and my shoulder and my mother’s cries echoing across the wire, I brought my fingers to my keyboard and Googled Muscular Dystrophy, Duchennes and the chill turned to ice. He would die. His muscles would disintegrate and he would die.

No cure. No hope.

For the first year, it was easy to wrap ourselves in platitudes like live for the moment and seize the day and rejoice in the time that you have because Tanner didn’t change much, not at first. His walking got a little more awkward, but he was still a rough and tumble force of a little boy who loved nothing more than fierce hugs and cuddle-wrestling. To anyone who didn’t know him, he was just another ordinary child. No clock ticking over his head, no enemy within. Just a boy. But then he started undergoing steroid treatments, which affected his behaviour, and his physical condition deteriorated and continued deteroriating and word started getting out among neighbours and school-peers that he was sick. Disabled, obviously, but not only that: disabled, and marked for death. Some children started teasing him, and he began to understand.

That was over two years ago. That was over two years ago, and Tanner has since learned – we have all learned – to cope with the reality of his illness. That is, we think that we have, until we see Tanner recoil in embarassment from his wheelchair, or refuse to make eye contact with other children. Or tuck his head against his mother’s thigh at DisneyWorld and insist that, no, he doesn’t want to see if they can accommodate him on that ride, or this one.

This, this is a terrible heartbreak. We imagine, we believe, that all sick or disabled (no, he is not differently-abled. He is 8 years old and he can neither run nor play sport with other children. He experiences his condition as a disability, something that prevents him from doing that which he most wants to do) children bear their conditions nobly, and with good spirits. We watch the TV shows and the movies and our hearts are lifted by these brave little souls who carry their fates with dignity. We forget, however, that these are mostly fictions, that however noble are our beloved broken children, they are still children and they hurt like children and they fear like children and they cry like children and is there anything worse, really, for a child, than to be constrained in a chair – embarassed, ashamed – at the happiest place on earth while all the other children race and play with abandon?

Tanner wanted to hide. He wanted to not be seen. He wanted his weakness, his powerlessness, his sickness, his bound-in-a-chairness to be wrapped in a cloak of invisibility. He wanted – in the middle of all of the joy and all of the celebration and all of the hope (and yes, Disney does these things so well, with its spontaneous choruses of dreams really do come true, with its sudden eruptions of dance and sparkles, with its ever-present proclamations of joy, you can almost taste the hope, the magic) – to disappear.

And I don’t even have words to describe the hundred million ways that my heart breaks – that it shatters – to know this. I don’t have the words to describe the force of my wish that this just weren’t true, that this would all just go away, that I could make the disease that is killing him not only invisible, but non-existent. That I could take away everything that makes Tanner want to hide and to bring him out into the sun and say, with conviction, see? there is no darkness here. There is nothing to be afraid of, there is no reason to hide.

There’s a small part of me that wishes, sometimes, darkly, that we could have four-year old Tanner back; that we could go back to those days before the diagnosis when he was a wee bundle of four-year old fury, squeezing us with his round little arms, pummelling us with his joy, living a life of unrestrained happiness, reaching toward a limitless sky. But to have that Tanner back would be turn our backs on the Tanner who lives and loves and pummels us – with the sheer force of his heart – now. And that Tanner – this Tanner – is extraordinary, amazing, beautiful, brave. So, so brave, so, so beautiful. So deserving of being seen. Seen, and included, and loved.

It is not, however, my place to thrust him into the spotlight, to force him to bravely face the crowds and share himself. I can only tell his story, and hope that it gives you – the known and unknown yous who follow his story – some sense of the miracle that he is, this brave little boy who carries this terrible, terrible burden and who nevertheless goes forward, shyly, into the world, hoping to share in its joy. And if it reminds you to make an effort to really see somebody, anybody, who is hiding in a literal or figurative corner, to go over and take their hand and make the effort to let them know that you see them and that you think they are wonderful… well, then, that will have been no small thing.

Do it for Tanner.

Motorola – who sent me on my trip to Disneyworld (which unfortunately couldn’t take place at the same time as Tanner’s trip; one of his biggest wishes has been to someday have a holiday with his cousins, but this is tremendously difficult to arrange, and we were disappointed to miss the opportunity) – has offered me a Motorola Motozine Zn5 camera phone (read about it here; it is awesome) to give away. Which I’m going to do, through a random draw, BUT: in order to be eligible to win, you need to state, in your comment, what you will do to pay your good fortune forward. It can be anything – shovelling the walk of the old lady who lives across the street, or sitting down and having a talk with your kids about being inclusive of kids – like Tanner – who seem different, or making a donation to a charity of your choice (it’ll be honor-system principle whether you follow up or not, but I really hope that you do.) You have until Sunday, midnight.

On my end – because I’m on a one-woman mission to turn every giveaway that hits the internets into a pay-it-forward giveaway – I’m going to make another donation, in the name of the winner, to the organization (Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy) that my sister ran to raise funds for. (If you haven’t already made a donation, please think about doing so. I know that you have other causes to support, and I’ll understand if you can’t, but please, think about it, and maybe pass the request along.) And then I’m going to send a camera to Tanner, so that even if he feels most comfortable on the sidelines, he can share with us what he sees. So that we might, perhaps, see the world from his side, and look there more often.

(Congratulations to Catherine from PinkAsparagus, who won the draw for the Motozine camera phone! Catherine, please e-mail me so that I can arrange to get the phone to you.)

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The Happiest Place On Earth

December 17, 2008

When I was seven years old, my family went to Disneyland. My father took a few weeks’ holiday from work, and we set off in a camper van down the Pacific coast from Vancouver, stopping to see attractions like the Grand Coulee Dam (‘the Eighth Wonder of the World!’ exclaimed my mother, reading from a promotional pamphlet. ‘Bigger than the pyramids!’) and making detours into Nevada and Arizona to visit Death Valley and the Petrified Forest. We stayed at state parks and KOA Kampgrounds. It was awesome, at least until I got mumps on the way back and had to sit, fat-faced and forlorn and bundled in a blanket at the side of the campground pool while my sister and parents splashed and enjoyed the last days of our holiday.

Disneyland was the highlight of the trip, but in truth I remember very little of it. I remember the most notable attractions – Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion and the Peter Pan ride and the Country Bears Jamboree – and I remember making a wish in Snow White’s wishing well, although for the life of me I can’t remember what I wished for. I also remember some ride that made you think that you had been shrunk to smaller than a snowflake, and remember that my sister, then four, emerged from the ride in tears, devastated because, she imagined, her lollipop had shrunk along with the rest of us. Mostly, though, I remember my mother’s childlike delight as we explored the park.

The rides amazed and thrilled her; she insisted that we visit the Pirates of the Caribbean again and again, exclaiming every time our little boat navigated its way between the battling pirate ships – cannons! exploding! – that it was so exciting! So real! The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with its spinning teacups made her dizzy, but the Haunted Mansion delighted her (ghosts! right there in the car with us!) and she clapped and cheered her heart out at the Country Bears Jamboree. I was, at seven years old, convinced that my thirty-something mother was having a much better time than I was, and I was almost certainly correct.

My mother insisted for years that the wonders of Disneyland were as potent for adults as they were for children, but I always doubted her. One of my mother’s signature personality traits has always been her childlike enthusiasm for anything fantastical, and it seemed to me that Disneyland was very probably as close to a spiritual homeland for her as any other place in the world. So I was always doubtful when she insisted that Disneyland was as magical a place for grown-ups – even sensible, non-silly grown-ups, like the kind that I knew I would grow up to become – as it was for kids.

I was right to be doubtful. But, also, I was wrong.

My children and I spent this past weekend at Disney World. We could have gone anywhere in the US (thanks, Motorola), but I chose Disney World. I chose Disney World – against all of my pre-parenthood commitments to myself to do parenthood differently, to make unconventional choices in parenting, to not fall back on the convenience of sparkle and glitz and licensed characters – because it was just going to be me and the girl and the baby and that – combined with the fact that I don’t drive – was just too much parenting to be managed anywhere where there weren’t ample distractions ready-at-hand. Disney World, it seemed to me, was one big handy distraction. And if what my mother had said was true, then I would enjoy it too. It would be a vacation for my children, and for me. Win-win.

It wasn’t, as it turned out, so much of a vacation for me. It was hard, hard work. Herding a jacked-up three-year old in a Buzz Lightyear costume with a baby strapped to one’s chest from dawn ’til dusk at the Happiest Place On Earth is less conducive to happy-making than one might think. I didn’t get enough sleep, I didn’t eat enough food, and I spent at least one thirty-minute period locked, with the children sleeping in the double stroller, in a wheelchair-accessible restroom in Fantasyland fighting off an anxiety attack. The rides were, for the most part, exactly how I remembered them from Disneyland, but without the unfailing suspension of disbelief possessed by small children and my mother, and, also, with the strain of carrying a 22 lb baby on my chest, they were a touch less magical than memory served. (There were exceptions, of course: I found the Winnie-the-Pooh ride with its trippy voyage through Pooh’s honey-soaked dreams completely fascinating. Also, the Escher stairs in the Haunted Mansion.) (Yes, I took the three-year old and the baby into the Haunted Mansion. She insisted. What of it?)

And yet, and yet… there was still magic to be found, and I found much of it. Emilia was delighted beyond measure. Not amazed, not dazzled – it seemed to her that of course there would be places like Disney World, where all the characters from her favorite movies live and where small children are given stickers and sparkles and smiles at every corner and allowed to race around without restriction, and so, really, what’s the big deal? – just delighted. And I, of course, was delighted at her delight. Her delight filled my heart and made it swell to bursting and because it was just so full, so bouyant, it was impossible for me to not have a spring in my step, even with the jumbo baby strapped to my chest and the bag-laden stroller in front of me. I was uplifted.

(Don’t even get me started on Sea World. DON’T. I will cry. I was completely and totally seduced by the heart-tuggy schmaltz that is the Shamu spectacle and I cried like a baby through the whole thing. Emilia now thinks that all swimming pools should have giant whales, and that we should all be allowed to play with them. We’ll discuss Free Willy when she’s a little older.)

Emilia would, of course, have been delighted with any number of holiday experiences. She would have been delighted if we had rented a camper van and parked ourselves by a beach and set her loose with a bucket. And we’ll totally do that. But it was fun, this time, to indulge in a cheesy commercial fantasy, to let her romp in a world constructed entirely for children, one that makes no apologies for childishness and cheesiness and glitz, one that is specially designed to provoke giggles and squeals of delight.

So what if I could see the wires behind the animatronic Captain Hook, or see the creases in Cinderella’s make-up? This vacation wasn’t for me. It was for her.

And I loved every minute of it.

(Many, many thanks to Fidget, for coming to visit us at our hotel – which lacked a restaurant, and therefore room service, which meant that I might have starved Thursday night had she not brought hummus and crackers and – mercy, mercy – wine, and to Miss Britt and her delightful, delightful family, who spent the afternoon and evening with us at the park on Saturday.) (You can see Emilia and her daughter Emma driving a race car in the video that she put together of the weekend – her son’s birthday weekend – here. Really, they were so awesome.)

Quick – what’s your happiest family-vacation place on earth? I’m already plotting and lobbying the husband for a family vacation for the four of us next year. I’m thinking road trip. Should we retrace the path of my family’s Disneyland trek? Or what? Where are some good places on the continent to go? Where would you go?

I have not yet figured out how I am going to pay this trip forward, but I’m going to try. Ideas are welcome, but they need to be richer in spirit than in dollars, because, you know: recession. Leave your thoughts below; whoever leaves the idea that I choose gets a Scrabble Diamond Anniversary Edition game…

UPDATE: Loonstruck came up with the pay-it-forward idea that I’m going to run with – offer my home to another blogger who wants to see this part of Canada. There are going to be some cool bloggy events here this year, and I will happily play host to someone who wants to attend. Stay tuned. (And as requested, the Scrabble game went to the library – youth section – where it was much appreciated!)

Minding One’s Peens and Q’s

November 12, 2008

The girl-child has impeccable manners. She’s all please and thank you and may I and I’m sorry and oh, excuse me and it’s entirely disarming. She can be in the middle of a nuclear-scale tantrum and she’ll still stop to say excuse me and wait for you to step aside before she stomps past you shouting THANK YOU. It’s kind of awesome.

She’s also generous with the compliments. We think that it’s something that they’ve been teaching at her preschool, because although my husband and I are unfailingly polite, we tend not to walk around praising each other’s clothing choices and hair-brushing techniques. Emilia, on the other hand, is all about praising the finer details of the appearance and comportment of others: nice buttons on your shirt, Mommy! she’ll say. And, I like your hair today, Daddy! Did you brush it? Or, are those new shoes, Mommy? I like the laces! (said of laceless Converse sneakers.)

And then, the other day, this:

(bursting into the bathroom and confronting her very surprised father, in flagrante urinato)

NICE PENIS, DADDY!

Which, you know, was kind of funny, but only in that embarrassing, not-for-sharing-at-dinner kinda way, like that time last year when she shouted, from the backseat of the car, excuse ME, mother-f***er! and we both looked at each in horror before exclaiming to each other she didn’t get that from ME and then laughing, uncomfortably, out loud. That kind of funny.

The thing is, on the very rare occasion – very rare – that she says something that is obviously inappropriate – like, say, mother-f***er – we can console ourselves with the facts that a) she didn’t get it from us (we save all of our cursing for after hours and, in any case, never refer to ourselves or anyone else as mother-f***ers) and b) it’s easy to explain to her that some words simply aren’t polite. But how do we respond to complimentary commentary on genitalia? I mean, she was trying to pay a compliment. She wanted to say something nice, and the obvious thing, when the person to whom one wants to say something nice has directed their attention to a specific part of themselves, is to direct one’s compliment to that specific part. That’s just basic etiquette.

But Emily Post didn’t provide direction on how to compliment penises for a very good reason: one simply shouldn’t go around complimenting penises in any circumstances other than those engaged in, in private, by consenting adults. Which is not something that we’re not yet talking about with the girl, who is, after all, just two days shy of three years old and so some twenty-odd years off from dating. So how do we explain to her that although it is nice to say nice things to other people, there are just some things that we don’t draw attention to? We do not, after all, want to suggest to her that there is anything shameful about the parts that she is complimenting; we do not want to suggest that those parts are anything other than ‘nice’. And isn’t there something potentially confusing and problematic about telling her that we simply shouldn’t talk about those parts?

Obviously, the fast answer is lock the bathroom door. But that doesn’t resolve the bigger issue: we’re fairly modest people, inasmuch as we tend not to wander around naked, but we don’t make a fuss about concealing ourselves from each other, because, again, we don’t want to send the message that there’s something shameful about bodies. We have talks about privacy, but we’re not fascists about it. So, you know, occasionally there’s going to be a glimpse of a penis or a boob and if the girl decides that those things are deserving of compliments, well, how are we to respond? Should we respond, in any manner other than simply saying thank you and moving on?

Because, you know, I don’t get compliments on my boobs all that often, and so I’m kind of inclined to take them where I can get them.

(What do you/will you/would you do?)

(Thanks to Niksmom for the title suggestion via Twitter)


Hold The Mustard

October 20, 2008

I don’t know at what point I realized that I was doomed to one of the worst public humiliations of my parenting experience, but it might have been when the elderly lady walked in on Jasper and I in the ladies’ restroom at our local Kelsey’s restaurant and noticed a) his nakedness, b) the slick of mustard poo coating that nakedness, c) the slick of mustard poo coating me, and d) the slick of mustard poo coating every visible surface in the room, and then, without a word, turned on her heel and walked back out again.

We hadn’t planned to go out to dinner Saturday night. But we’d ended up driving out to the countryside to visit friends and hadn’t planned for dinner and so had hatched the ill-conceived plan to just stop on the way home so that Emilia might fall asleep in the car afterwards. It occurred to me at some point that our car-stash of diapers and pull-up pants and wipes was low, but I reasoned that Emilia would use the toilet at the restaurant – she’s been using the toilet fairly reliably – and that we could make it through the evening with just a spare pull-up and no wipes. I forgot that we also had a baby, and that at five months old, he’s unable to use the toilet and, you know, control his bowel movements.

We’d been at the restaurant for about twenty minutes when Jasper started to fuss.

“He probably needs a change,” I said. I did a mental calculation of baby supplies on hand. Zero. “You’re going to have to go out to the car,” I told my husband. “There should be a diaper in the backseat.” I figured that I might have a wipe or two in a crumpled-up travel pack of no-name wipes in my bag. I didn’t bother to check.

So it was that five minutes later I was in the ladies’ restroom with a baby in need of a change and only one diaper, no change of clothes, and one or two dessicated wipes. Which wouldn’t have been a problem, necessarily, if said baby wasn’t loaded from stem to stern with – how to put this? – a shitload of effluent that had just begun leaking through his clothes.

Leaking through his clothes and onto mine.

Leaking through his clothes and onto my clothes and onto the floor.

Leaking through his clothes and onto my clothes and onto the floor and onto my feet.

Mustard poo, as any new parent knows, does not, strictly speaking, smell like poo. It has a sort of cloying, sweet organic smell, like the smell of dead roses, or of rotting fruit, or wet hay, with a bit of a sharp, mustardy edge to it. I had a lot of time to think about this as I wrestled my fat, naked, poo-slicked baby in the ladies’ restroom of the Bowmanville Kelsey’s. I had a lot of time to think about this, because it is very, very difficult to clean a poo-slicked baby in a public restroom with only one wipe. Actually, it is very nearly impossible to clean a poo-slicked baby in a public restroom with only one wipe. Which is why I spent close to half an hour just standing around in my poo-stained shirt, holding the naked poo-slicked baby and a clutch of paper towels and wondering what the f*** I was supposed to do, during which time the elderly woman wandered into the restroom, correctly assessed the situation as off-putting to one’s dinner, and exited immediately.

I needed to act. I knew that if I took much longer, one of a number of things was going to happen: 1) someone else would come in wanting to use the restroom, which by this point looked like the set of one of those alien movies where aliens get slaughtered and splatter gummy yellow effluent over every surface, 2) my husband would send the server – who was maybe twenty-years old and prone to responding to every request with a giggle and ‘okay, awesome!’ – in to find me, which would contribute nothing but nervous tittering and an added element of spectacle to the scene, 3) Jasper would release another blast of poo and I would burst into tears, or 4) all of the above.

So, gripping Jasper under one arm, I filled the sink with soap and water, dipped him butt-first into the bubbles and scrubbed at him with paper towels. Then I threw paper towels over the change table, three or four layers thick, for later wiping, and shoved some more paper towels against my poo-smeared chest so that Jasper wouldn’t get re-smeared when I held him against me. Then – still one-arming it – I pulled the clean diaper onto him, and his wee cardigan, which had mercifully escaped being shat upon. I contemplated tossing his clothes into the wastebasket, but decided that that would just prolong the smell, and so I wrapped them in more paper towels and then – holding Jasper an inch from my damp, decoupaged chest and summoning every ounce of dignity I could muster – marched back through the restaurant to my husband.

“Take him,” I said, “and get the waitress to bring a plastic bag for this.” I dumped the paper-towel wrapped package of poo-soaked clothing on my chair, grabbed my own cardigan, and walked back the restroom, where I stripped off my reeking, soaking shirt and shoved in the wastebasket. Then, clad only in my bra, I scrubbed myself down – myself and all the other surfaces slicked with poo – before zipping my cardigan over my more-or-less naked but also more-or-less shit-free chest and heading back out into the restaurant and to my family: Jasper now clean and settled back in his carseat, my husband holding out a large glass of red wine for me, and my daughter grinning madly over a plate of mini-hamburgers.

And clutching a big squeeze-bottle of mustard.

If we never go out for dinner again it will be too soon.

If you have a worse poo story, I’d like to hear it. Also, I’d like to know if I’m the only parent who regularly finds herself short of supplies at critical moments, because a former grad-school colleague just messaged me saying ‘good story, but when I’m a parent I’m going to keep a package of diapers in the car’ and I was all, like, ‘ha ha good luck with that’ until I realized that maybe my particular form of slacker parenting is not the norm and that, perhaps, I should be deeply embarrassed about my general ineptitude. Yes/no?

What’s In A Name?

October 17, 2008

We knew there was a problem when the border guard leaned out of the window of his little cubicle and tried to peer into our car.

He gestures towards the backseat, our passports clutched in his hand. “Who’s the mother of that baby?”

“Um… me?” Why on earth would he ask me that? He has the passports in his hand.

“Do you have identification for that baby?”

“Um… you’re holding it? That’s his passport.”

“His last name is different from yours, ma’am. I have no way of knowing if this is your baby. Do you have a letter from the father?”

This conversation is starting to make me anxious. Katie, in the driver’s seat, is gripping the steering wheel tightly and trying to look virtuous.

“No, I don’t have a letter. I wasn’t aware that I needed one. I have a passport for him. You’re holding it.” I’m starting to babble. “You can call my husband if you want, but I guess that doesn’t help, right? Because I could just give you any old number, and how would you know it was my husband, so…” shut up shut up shut up “I don’t know what you want me to do; I mean, that is my baby…”

The border guard is staring at me with that blank but vaguely threatening bureaucratic stare that is the trademark of border guards, traffic cops, DMV employees and hair salon receptionists.

“His last name as indicated on this passport is different from yours, ma’am. He might not be your baby. And you have no travel letter. You could be taking him from his father.”

“But we’re on our way BACK to Canada. We’re RETURNING from a trip. We’re going BACK to where we came from. And he IS my baby. He IS.” I want to tell this guy that I have the scars to prove that I birthed this baby and that he’s welcome to see them IF HE DARES but I bite my tongue. Border guards have no sense of humor, and, also, it’s not like a display of my scarred nethers would prove anything. It’s not like Jasper left his gang tags on the walls of the birth canal on the way out. Any baby could have been responsible for that blast site. There’d be no way of proving that it was him. At least, not out here at the Thousand Islands border crossing in the middle of the night on a long weekend.

My voice is starting to get that hysterical edge. “That’s my husband’s last name on his passport, and I am married to my husband and this is our baby and I’m headed home to him but I have no way to prove that to you so I don’t know what you want me to do, seriously.”

The border guard looks at the passports, and then back at Katie and I, and then back at the passports again. “Okay,” he says. “I don’t get a bad feeling from you.” (WTF?) “I believe that this is your baby. I’m going to let you go. Next time, though, you need to bring more documentation with you.” He leans out of his border-guard cubby and hands us back our passports. “On your way.”

Katie hits the gas and peels away before he can change his mind.

We don’t say anything to each other for a few minutes.

“I think we brought back more liquor than we were supposed to. Thank god he missed that,” I say. I roll down the window to get some air. “Also, I think that I’m going to take Kyle’s name.”

*****

I don’t have any special attachment to my family name, apart from the fact that I’ve used it most of my life, which is significant, I know, but still. It’s not a true family name. My father picked it out of a hat, literally, when I was not quite two years old; he changed our family name after a falling out with his stepfather caused him to want to sever all ties with that part of his family. So my birth certificate was amended and I ended up with the family name that I have now. There’s no ancestry attached to it, no legacy. It’s just a name.

But it’s my name, and the one I’m used to. When I married my husband, I kept that name. I made a half-hearted effort to use a hyphenated version of our names, but it was hard to keep up, and, also, it sounded funny and pretentious, like it needed to be spoken with one’s lower jaw locked and all of one’s vowels and consonants enunciated clearly and separately. It’s not that I was opposed to taking his name, but nor was I opposed to keeping my own, and I just kinda lapsed into the easiest choice. I had a vague notion that I might change it to his when and if we had children, but that seemed a long way off.

I hadn’t thought again about changing my name until the other week – the week prior to being challenged by the border guard – when Emilia introduced herself to a little old lady that we encountered in the park. “My name is Emilia M—–” she said proudly, pronouncing, very carefully, every syllable. “And this is my brudder, Jasper M—–” She indicated the bundle in the stroller. “And this is my mommy, Caffrin M—–.” She beamed at me, proudly (is there any other way to beam?) and accepted the woman’s cheerful admiration of her language skills and general adorability. I, however, felt a little bit ashamed. My daughter doesn’t know my name. And, will she be disappointed that it is not the same as her own?

And: Am I disappointed that it is not the same as her own?

I was proud of her pride in introducing her family. I was proud of and heart-burstingly pleased by her delight in our us-ness. This is us, she told that lady. We are a family.

Does it matter that we don’t all share the same name? In the larger scheme of things, no, probably not. It doesn’t matter to me that border guards might challenge me on my children’s names. It doesn’t matter to me that some people might have judgments about me not taking my husband’s name, or about me not sharing my children’s name. What does matter to me, though, is this: my childrens’ feelings about our name. Perhaps Emilia wouldn’t care so much, if she knew. Call me but love, said the poet through the voice of Romeo. The name doesn’t matter, where there’s love. But I remember being a kid, and taking pride in my family, and really loving that we were us, that we were, we four, all Connors, that we alone in the world shared this name as our own, and that it set us apart. We were the Connors, and we were family.

That I loved, that I love, being a Connors, is precious to me. But that family unit is no more. My family, now – the family that is the very seat of my heart – is the M—–‘s. And I want my children to have the same pride in being – with their mom and their dad – the M—–‘s as I did being a Connors.

Perhaps it’s time to make that change.

What did you do? Did you keep your name, or not? If you didn’t, how do you or will you sort this out with your children? How do they feel about it? INQUIRING AND BEFUDDLED MIND WANTS TO KNOW