Category Archives: Family. And stuff.

Meternity. It’s a thing.

meternity_main1aSo author Meghann Foye (pictured), who doesn’t have children, wants a maternity leave without the lil’ shavers, and she’s calling such a break a “meternity” leave.

That’s a catchy word, but is this supposed to make me mad? It doesn’t. The discussion feels like the fake “mommy wars” of old (or maybe they’re still going on) where women who work outside the home are supposed to do battle with women who work inside the home. I understand the need to promote conflict, but precisely what were we supposed to argue about? Who was the better mommy? And do we really have the time and energy to care about this kind of thing?

Whatever, Mary. Take your me/maternity leave and enjoy, though this rebuttal is pretty funny.

Nike’s offering paid leave. Will other companies follow suit?

Nike_Swoosh_Logo_White_Small_original_original_native_600 (1)Last week, Nike employees who work more than 30 hours a week will get full paid leave. The new policy says:

new parents or [people] who are needed to care for sick family members are now eligible to receive eight weeks of paid leave, the world’s biggest sportswear company said on Wednesday.

Birth mothers are now eligible for a minimum of 14 paid weeks of leave, Nike said, with more paid leave allowable if a doctor deems it medically necessary. Previously, birth mothers were allowed a minimum of six weeks paid leave to care for their newborns, said a company spokeswoman.

Fathers, adoptive parents and employees with sick family members had not been allowed paid leave under Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike’s previous policy, but can now take up to eight weeks of paid leave.

The benefit changes apply to Nike employees who have a regular work schedule of 30 or more hours a week. Employees are eligible for the benefit on their first day of work, the company said.

And thanks, Jac, for the link.

Go, Cards.

(Except I live in New England, and so for a scattered few moments in the baseball season, it’s go, Red Sox.)

A few weeks ago, my son hatched a plan where we would take his two youngest (nearly-5-year old twins) to Fenway Park so they could get their first taste of his team, the Red Sox. He was about a year younger than his children when I first took him there. I didn’t take him out of any sense of fandom. It was more because, well, Fenway. I love baseball and grew up reading about the Curse, and about Fenway. On that long-ago day, nearly 30 years in the past, we sat by the Green Monster and ate popcorn and hot dogs and had a grand old time listening to that awesome Bawsten accent of our fellows. I don’t remember who was playing, other than the Red Sox. I do remember leaving early but leaving happy that we’d made the trek (about an hour and a half from our house).

So, yeah. Sign me up. I’m in the middle of giving and grading finals, but we drove to the nearest T station, rode it to Fenway, and walked around what could only be described as a Boston party that stretched for blocks outside the park. We got face-painted. We posed beside Tessie, and a guy on stilts. We were handed multiple souvenirs, including four bobble-head dolls which are, I guess, quite the collector’s item (I gave mine to my son; maybe he can trade it for one he doesn’t have).

Once the game started, three of us were mostly attuned to when the cotton candy guy would come up our row, but once again, we were seated in center field by the Monster, surrounded by happy people sloshing beer, throwing peanuts, and basically enjoying a perfect night for baseball. We lasted an entire inning, but were leaving the park as the Sox sent their second home run over the wall. It was, from what we heard in the car on the way home, a great game.

While we were cheering and eating and giggling, I wanted to burst into the chorus of “Circle of Life,” but my son gets rank-tired of me getting all nostalgic and sloppy, so I didn’t. But on the T-ride back to our car, I cuddled the girl-child, who was fighting to stay awake, and it hit me just how very lucky am I.

 

All I am, or ever hope to be…

TheGuysI don’t think everyone needs to have children, but I did.

One is a belly baby. The other came with the house. And I have learned so much from the both of them.

I don’t remember where this was taken. I do remember we’d spent the day riding the surf on this big raft, and I happened to be standing in front of the boys when they were being, well, boys. The one in back with his tongue hanging out (bless him) just finished law school and is taking the bar in July. The blond in the front teaches paramedic medicine in New York City. I mean, they had to grow up some, but those are their current stations and both of them, in their own way, helped me grow up in ways I never thought possible. Last night, when I finally sat down to much-needed grading, I sat down feeling really really happy to know these two, and to know, in the case of the brown-haired one, to know the woman he eventually married, and all their beautiful children. I’m not a huge fan of Mothers Day. It feels schmaltzy. I am not in a relationship with my own mother. I found myself texting or calling the women in my life who are mothers — along with my own Aunt Julie, who’s been like a mother to me. My aunt and her husband and their three children, my cousins, took me in when there was nowhere to go, and I am so very grateful for that, too.

And I spent part of yesterday with both of these guys, and came away feeling like I’m really getting more than my share, happy-wise.

I hope you can say the same.

The strange gift of grandchildren

IMG_2454Let’s just say this off the top: I have seven wonderful grandchildren because of a horrible decision made by this man.

Michael Knybel chose to get behind the wheel and drive drunk, and then a very bad thing happened. Drunk driving accidents are not accidents. They are, instead, a series of bad decisions that can be the vehicular equivalent of playing a lethal game of chance with others’ lives.

You may drive drunk and arrive in your own driveway with nary a scratch.

Or you can do what Knybel did. You can cross the center line, and slam into a vehicle driven by someone like Darren Fegan, the father of my five oldest (step) grandchildren. (The photo up top was taken a couple of years ago, on Easter, in the family’s front yard.)

That fatal crash was not Knybel’s first rodeo — nor, as it turns out, was it his last. The Courant ran a comprehensive story about the man on Sunday, and I spread it around on social media, but what I didn’t say was this:

  • I went to Knybel’s sentencing back in ’09 because I thought I could help wrangle the triplets, then the youngest of the grandchildren, during a difficult time. They would have been — what? — 8? 9? Their mother wanted them to come to court for some kind of closure on the events that took their dad. They were dressed for church and their hair was done just so, and I stood with them in the lobby after Knybel was sent to prison. One of his family members walked by my daughter-in-law, who was standing nearby, and said something like, “Happy now?” — as if my daughter-in-law had campaigned to send a poor man (who at the time of the crash was high on cocaine and beer) to jail. My daughter went to rush her (an act I must say I admire), her (former) father-in-law stood in between, and I hustled the girls into a side office. I didn’t know what was going to happen in the lobby, but I didn’t think the girls needed to see it. The girls saw just enough to hiccup and cry while I and a nice court official tried to distract them with talk about their pretty dresses. I remember telling them that sometimes grown-ups said and did things they regretted later, and maybe that family member would realize she shouldn’t have said that to their mommy. To that point:
  • I cannot emphasize how wonderful are Darren Fegan’s children, and I give massive credit to their incredibly supportive family for how they are turning out. The family has, as they say, a deep bench. There are aunties and grandparents and uncles and cousins, all of whom have stepped in at various points to do what was needed. And at the center of it is a woman of incredible strength, my daughter-in-law. When I post something about the family on Facebook, people often compliment me on my influence, which is, in a word, horseshit. I’m a bystander. This family was fully functioning — loud, funny, and indifferent to what you think of them — before I dipped my toe in it.
  • Originally, the  union of my son and daughter-in-law was not to produce children. They had, after all, five children already and the children were grieving and the children needed attention. This was a decision with which I wholeheartedly agreed. I wasn’t in on the conversations that went into the existence of my two biological grandchildren. That was a decision I wholeheartedly disagreed with, but what I do know?
  • Very little, as it turns out. As I type this, they have figured out how to download YouTube Kids on my iPad because they’re awesome.
  • Addiction is an awful thing. I don’t know a single family — including my own — that is untouched by it. I know that coming down hard on serial offenders may push them far down the economic ladder. If you lose your right to drive, how do you get to work? If you can’t get to work, how do you support yourself? But if someone cannot hear sane voices over their own addiction, then that person is a loaded gun, just waiting to go off.
  • This family is going to be fine. They’ve learned far more than they should know about loss and grief and recovery, but they’re wonderful people. The lessons have helped make the older children independent and competent near-adults. They speak freely about their loss, and as weird as it sounds, I think I would have liked Darren Fegan. I know I like his children. When the younger two (my son’s biological children, and my biological grandchildren), talk about the older children’s daddy in heaven, the older children just smile. This family is going to be fine, but
  • Connecticut has to lessen the possibility that someone will drive drunk and take out any more fathers, children, grandparents. Period.

That’s my boy

FullSizeRender (1)Tonight, my son will attend his very-last law school class. He plans to take the bar exam in July.

Those two sentences don’t begin to encompass the work that has gone on to reach tonight. For the past few years (I don’t even remember when he started…1990?) my son attended night classes at Western New England University School of Law. Before that, he graduated from University of Colorado at Boulder, then he earned a certificate for study at Hartford Seminary, and got a master’s of legal administration from University of Denver.

For all his degrees and accomplishments, I always thought he should be a lawyer, because as soon as he could speak, he was charting out his arguments for why things should go his way. I am not kidding. It was impressive, if sometimes maddening to have to wade through the logic of a 4-year old intent on having a new action figure, and here is why. I remember standing in a store once while he ticked off on his chubby little fingers the reason the latest Teenage Ninja Turtle needed to come home with us. (I was a single mother. I was broke. I bet I bought it for him, anyway.)

Today, my son got up before dawn, briefly hung out with one of the kids (usually, his youngest son gets up to see his father before school). He packed a lunch, drove 45 minutes to work in Connecticut’s judicial system. He left to attend tonight’s class, and then he’ll drive home long after most of the family has gone to bed — except tonight he won’t have to stay up to read or write papers.

On the home front, he’s had furnace trouble (a continual issue is New England). Two of the kids came down with bad colds. One of his wife’s aunts was  hospitalized. And that’s just this week.

And still he’s stuck to it.

This is where I get corny: One of the biggest secrets of his success has been his wife, my beautiful daughter-in-law, Xiomara. She has essentially been a single mother four nights of every week during this long stint in school — and she’s sometimes been a single mother on the weekends, as well, when papers needed to be written, and case law needed to be read. This is a family with seven children — five from my daughter-in-law’s first marriage, and two from this one. Let that sink in a minute. My daughter-in-law had five children (including a set of identical triplets, who are now beautiful 15-year olds), and then lost her first husband to a drunk driver. My son came along, they married, and after much discussion decided to have a child together, only she had twins. Five. Then two. Seven — all on her those many nights when her husband was off getting his law degree. She has served as an ear, and as a heart as he pushed through.

When my son graduates, I’ve suggested he hand the degree to his wife. As much as he’s done the classwork, she’s done the homework. I am so very proud.

Two dads who can’t stop being dads

aI wrote this for Mother Courant. Charles Frey and Kevin Lembo (Lembo is Connecticut’s state comptroller) have been foster parents, and then adoptive parents, and now they’re foster parents again.