I can’t believe I’m about to type this. Past versions of myself in parallel timelines are appalled and confused. I didn’t know that I would ever feel this way, about any person, place, or thing, but it’s my truth now.
I didn’t understand unconditional love until I met Remi.
Not that I’m saying my love typically comes with specific conditions or that a mother’s love is unique. It’s more like my love, my deepest love, my love for my family, even, has always made it to a maximum point, but after that point, my human need for self-preservation comes first. This isn’t a negative way to view relationships with others. Self-preservation is important and having boundaries is healthy.
It’s just that I didn’t know that all-consuming love, that drunk in love, that crazy in love, with the pyrotechnics and the heavy downbeat. I’ve never experienced that with my romantic loves, even with Waffle. Yes, our love is real and there have been many times when we’ve experienced incandescent, fiery connection. But I have never wanted to give all of myself completely. I won’t. I didn’t know that I was capable of it.
Until I came to know Remi.
I told my mom recently that I understand love differently now, as a parent, and that I appreciate even more all the love she and my dad have held for my sister and me. There is no way I could love her the way I now recognize that she loves me. There’s no way that Remi will love me the way I love her.
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Happy Mother’s Day to the best mom I know, @kaelynrich You are always there to help Remi out and do cool things like act as a chair or pet a goat with. We hope you have a great day! ♥️💋 #daddydino #babytrex #mommydino #happymothersday #mothersday #toddlersofinstagram #thebestmom
When Remi was little and couldn’t sit up yet, she loved to experience the textures of her world. I would sometimes lay her on a playmat in her diaper, put our softest baby blankets in the clothes dryer to heat them up, then float the blankets over her bare body and snuggle her up in the radiating heat. If you’ve ever put on your softest, most comfortable clothes right out of the dryer, it’s like that, but imagine you’re a tiny person and someone is so-gently covering every inch of your bare skin in that gently pulsing warmth.
That’s how I love her, that delicate trembling love, that sun-beam bright brilliant love, that lazy afternoon nap so cozy curled up under the blankets and waking refreshed love. I don’t think there’s an adequate word in the English language for the feeling. I love her more than anyone, including myself.
Today, Remi fell asleep in my arms for the first time in a long time. She usually sleeps in her room upstairs for her nap, but I was on a work call and didn’t get her up there in time, so she came over and wanted to be picked up. She watched my conference screen for a while and then put her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes. I’d forgotten how good it felt to hold her, asleep, against my chest, with her arms wrapped around my shoulders. I forgot how right it felt and how it brought out this side of me that is completely in tune with her every movement.
I knew when she transitioned into R.E.M. sleep by the slight jerky movements of her fingers on my clavicle, how deeply she was sleeping by the pace and pitch of her breath. I remembered from when she was little the way she gets slightly sweaty when she sleeps soundly and the smell of her hair a couple of days out from the last shampoo. We slept like that for an hour and by the time I woke her from her cuddle nap, I felt calmer than I’d felt for days.
I didn’t know I was capable of loving someone on this level. I don’t think it only happens in parent-child relationships. I think, I guess some people must experience feelings like this in romantic relationships. I just never have. I would be sad to lose my loved ones, very sad, but I would survive it. I’d be utterly and completely devastated to lose Remi. I don’t know if I’d ever be OK again. I’m knocking on wood right now, hoping to protect her and my heart.
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How did 2 indoor cats raise an outdoor cat?!?! Remi loves being outside so Mommy took her out to the porch to play until well after dark. There may have been bonus dessert pizza because mommy Dino is cool like that! #daddydino #babytrex #porchweather #playtime #dessertpizza #nighttime
If you’ve learned anything about me from reading my writing on Autostraddle, you know I hate being vulnerable. Being a parent has made me more vulnerable than I would ever choose to be. I can’t believe I love Remi this much.
On my second mother’s day last weekend, Remi and I had a low key day at home. “Happy Mother’s Day,” she wished me, loudly scream-shouting, when prompted. “Thank you, baby! I love you,” I replied, knowing she didn’t fully understand and not caring that she couldn’t.
3 Queer Parenting Things I’m Currently Overprocessing
1. Two Indoor Cats and One Outdoor Cat
I don’t know how two very indoor cats ended up with a demanding outdoor cat, but we sure did. It’s been rainy and chilly most of the week and Remi keeps looking out the windows forlornly, whining, “I wanna go outside! She’s constantly trying to negotiate for trips to the park or play in our backyard. I finally gave in today and set her upon our front porch despite the rainy drizzle and cold, wet everything.
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Yesterday I got out of work early and got home just in time to enjoy some outdoor time with my outdoor cat! She rode her bike, played with her sand table and car. We got out her slide and she even helped me clean up the yard. #babytrex #daddydino #outdoors #littlehelper #toddlersofinstagram #vroomvroom #sandbox
All she wants is to be in the outdoors, getting messy, splashing in puddles, and galloping free.
2. Thing I Googled This Week
- rainy day fun toddler
- work at home parent ideas
- what age independent play over
- Rochester universal pre-k waiting list
3. Shark Teeth in Different Shapes and Sizes
Remi’s favorite book at the moment is Goodnight Shark! by Adam Gamble and Mark Jasper. She wants to read it before bed and any other time, too. She has it mostly memorized and can remember the names of the different kind of sharks.
On my most recent work trip, I was able to buy Remi three sharks teeth “in different shapes and sizes,” which is a line in Goodnight Shark. She was thrilled!
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That moment when your wife understands you! @kaelynrich went out of town for work for 3 days but she brought back gifts! I got a goat leg bone and Remi got some shark teeth and a piece of polished dinosaur bone. #daddydino #babytrex #odditiesandcuriosities #paxtongate #portlandoregon #goatbone #sharksteeth
I also got her this toy plane to help her get emotionally prepared for our big flight to A-Camp! Coming soon! Remi and I are so excited to see you! We’ll bring Goodnight Sharks to share if she’s still into it!
This is such a beautiful, generous, wonderful post. Being loved like that as a child is the greatest gift anyone can ever have, and although it can never be repaid, I know I spend the rest of my life trying to make other people feel as loved and safe and warm as my parents make me feel every day of my life. Your outdoor cat is so lucky to have you and Waffle to love her so completely!!!
Also rain is awesome for looking at and learning about worms — I teach elementary school and the kindergarteners and first graders LOVE the word farm we have. Digging in the first to find worms can be a whole afternoon! There might be a public garden/nature place nearby that has kids classes for digging and growing stuff.
My brother and I were recently talking about how lucky we were to grow up being so loved and cared for in a safe environment. Even now I know that my parents would do anything for me, and I try to be careful to not overdo it.
In grad school for child development one professor said that all kids need someone who’s crazy about them. I am crazy about my eight year old, even if sometimes she also drives me crazy!
And I love my new shared kids and am falling into a deeper love as I get to know them more, as we grow together.
Also I hear you, em, on the worm love! When I was a kid my dad always checked my pockets before washing my clothes to put any worms back out in the garden. Now we have a community garden plot and I love helping the kids find and appreciate the worms!
Worms in pockets = MY NIGHTMARE
OK. I’m fine.
I don’t know if this is rude, but I’m only here for Kaelyn. I have horrible anxiety and had to scale it back on most websites, reading articles and comparing myself, constantly worrying. But I can always relax and read a Kaelyn article. Sometimes I read your articles 5 times over because I can read it without anxiety. Which is rare. And YAY #queermommygoals
@midnightkissed! That’s just the best thing anyone’s ever said about my writing. I appreciate you so much. <3
Outdoor cats love preschools that feature lots of hiking, mud play, and building things with sticks! We were fortunate to find such a place, and our kiddo came home everyday caked in a mixture of mud and paint with small collections in her pockets of rocks, sticks, leaves, and sometimes critters! I highly recommend this type of play-based learning for littles who love the outdoors.
Also, unconditional love has been the most painful and joyous experience of my life.
Yes! We need to get her to preschool soon. I think she’ll definitely be ready at 3 years old if we can expedite potty training over the summer. Such a good recommendation to find a place that prioritized outside play!
I love the indoor cat/outdoor cat analogy!
It’s true. She’s outside right now playing with Waffle before he has to go to work and she’s stuck inside with me while I work. It’s a hard life for an outdoor cat!
When my first was born I was in complete awe of the love I felt for her. It is so fierce that it made me question if I had ever actually felt love before. And like you, really appreciate my parents love for me. I got a little teary just reading this.🥰
I know exactly what you mean, @book_junkie! It’s like a whole different kind of love than I’ve ever experienced before. I think it’s all love, all kinds. It’s all real, but this is just something even deeper than I previously knew was possible.
That all consuming, unconditional love is the biggest reason I do not think I could handle being a parent. My childhood was not a happy one and the protectiveness I have for (most) children mixed with that sort of love would take a tremendous toll on my mental health.
I can see myself logically knowing that figuratively bubble wrapping my child is not good for them, but NOT being able to STOP myself because “what if XYZ thing” and just falling apart when I try to un-wrap them.
Which makes for a different kind of unhappy childhood.
But you would make yourself unwrap them, a little bit at a time, because you’d want to do what was right for them strongly enough to push past that fear. And allowing them to take little risks is a thing that gets easier with practice and as they grow bigger and stronger and show you how resilient they really are.
Not saying it’s easy. But you don’t even have a kid and you’re already thinking of how to do right by them. So if it ever happens, deep breath, you will do ok and your kid will know you love them.
I had so many fears about parenting, not that I couldn’t do it, but that I just wasn’t hard-wired for it. Choosing not to parent is a really valid choice! Choosing not to parent even though you want to because of fears that you’re not good enough is a different thing. Whether you decide to and/or are able to or not, it’s good that you know yourself!
Shit I forgot the bubble.
Okay so Aquarium of the Americas has Gulf of Mexico exhibit that includes sharks and there’s this viewing bubble the perfect size for small children
If you sit/stand there for a bit some of the sharks glide right by it my shark obsessed nephew did one of those startling shrieks of delight. It was awesome.
Somewhere there’s a cast of a megalodon jaw I feel like it’s moved at least 3 times in my life.
Also there’s an exhibit in the works just about sharks.
OMG! I walked by that Aquarium when I was exploring New Orleans last year (while there for a conference). Remi wasn’t with me, but I remember thinking she’d love it!
Now I’ll definitely have to take her!
Beautiful writing KaeLyn. You’re right, if kids can know/feel that depth of love they’re set up for life.
I’ve recently asked my 8 year old, how do you know that I love you (when she acts insecure) and she’s replied, because you tell me all the time, and you check on me. It was fun getting her perspective!
@pussiesbow, I hope so! I know I did.
@shewasnice, that is the sweetest story!
yup. I’m a stay-at-home butch (not the birth parent) and sometimes I just stare at my kid while he sleeps. Indescribable. Knowing that he trusts me has helped me trust myself.
“Knowing that he trusts me has helped me trust myself.” That’s so true, @leftyscissors! How long do you think they’ll tolerate us watching them sleep? Until, like, they turn 21?
@KaeLyn do you know the Robert Munsch book Love you Forever? The mom sneaks into her son’s room to pick him up and rock him from the time that he’s a baby and even when he’s a grown up.
@shewasnice: I do! I thought it was kind of creepy, but I also kind of get it now. LOL.
I grew up in Rochester!!
I was a big fan of prehistoric marine life as a kid (huge nerd, I know) and I really loved the cool shark-like fossils they have at the RMSC. I didn’t find out until college-age that there’s an excellent paleontology museum in Ithaca (Museum of the Earth) but if Remi ever wants to see some more sharks of the ancient variety, I highly recommend visiting it!
my dad recently shared with me this korean concept called “ne-rhee sarang” sarang is love and ne-rhee is like downward or descending. he was watching me play with my daughter and asked me rhetorically how much I love her. Basically he said in Korean there is a belief that the younger generation can never love the older generation in the same way. for example, children can never love their parents as much as the parent loves the child. And in his case he loves his granddaughter a massive amount [opening his arms super wide] and now while he is clearly her best friend (she gets SO excited to see him) she will only be able to love him back a tiny amount [using his fingers as an example]. He was so matter a fact about it– not sad or anything– just accepting like it is the truth!
Amy! I love this! Thank you so much for sharing it with me.