Name: Rochelle Fritsch
Kids: Elementary school-aged daughter
Works: Fundraiser for IMPACT, a local nonprofit
Favorite thing about being a mom: Telling my daughter stories about Grandma Gee Gee and stuff that happened when I was a little girl, teaching my daughter important life lessons (manners) and watching her apply them
Least favorite thing about being a mom: Teaching my daughter important life lessons (bad choices lead to bad consequences) by being the "Enforcer"
Famous for: Being a karaoke queen and snorting when I laugh
Everyone who visits milwaukeemoms is here for their own personal reasons. Maybe you’re looking for family friendly weekend fun. Maybe you’re a single dad of a tween daughter and you want tips for navigating the (ahem) hormonal shifts. Maybe you’re new to town and want advice on finding a trustworthy childcare provider. Then there are the Kitchen Table Bloggers. We’ve all got different reasons for connecting with you through our posts; and I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m here because I like writing what I see, and how I see it through this sometimes funny, sometimes serious and sometimes twisted lens of the Square Peg I am.
But whether we’re moms, dads, grandparents, step-parents seeking resources or chatting in the forums or writing about our kids’ latest phase, what brings all of us here is that we’re seeking Community. Connectedness. A sense that we’re not moving through parenthood in all its forms -- and all the emotions that come with it – alone.
Throughout the years, you’ve taught me a lot through your feedback. You’ve reassured me that I’m not the only mom who’s working outside the home, or who has arguments with her spouse or who’s freaking out about the birds and the bees talk. Your feedback’s even taught me how to handle disagreements without being disagreeable. So thank you for that.
But my biggest take-away is understanding how much we all want to be heard.
That last lesson ultimately landed me in a room with these women rehearsing for the Listen to Your Mother Show…and learning from and growing with each other as writers, performers, professionals, children of mothers…and moms.
The Listen to Your Mother Show gathers writers, bloggers and performers to read pieces they’ve written about motherhood. Now, I’m not much of a crier – or at least a public crier. Not my thing. But let me tell you, I listened to these women (as well as one teenaged boy) at our first rehearsal read publicly what was once held private in their hearts about this thing called motherhood, and it had me going through at least half a box of tissues; not to mention the funny readings that evoked laughing-tears and long overdue belly laughs.
I could tell you more, describe more and even post another pic, but I’d really rather you experience it for yourself and share this moving, exciting, funny performance with a few other milwaukeemoms bloggers and me at Milwaukee’s Inaugural Listen to Your Mother Show.
After all, you’re a big part of the reason why I’ll be there in the first place.
The show starts at 3p on Sunday, May 5 at Alverno College. Click here for ticket info.
PS - The lessons you’ve taught me led me to start my own blog; and I’d love it if you visited. You can find it at thelatearrival.blogspot.com and/or like its Facebook Page at facebook.com/thelatearrival
One of the unexpected joys about parenting for me has been the music. More specifically, sharing music with GeeGee. The songs and bands I like. Especially during her preschool years, music was a little island of sanity from Dora the Explorer’s incessant screaming of “TELL SWIPER NOOOO SWIPING” or from Joe & Blue or that ear-wormable House of Mouse song from Playhouse Disney.
Music was my trip to “back in the day.” Simultaneously entertaining GeeGee was an added bonus.
As GeeGee outgrew those kiddie shows, we continued to share music, and before I knew it, she was requesting songs like Safety Dance, One Night in Bangkok, and Somebody’s Watching Me. When GeeGee started recognizing songs by Sting, Rush, Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt, Jamie and I smugly patted ourselves on the back. Ah yes, we thought, she’s developing an appreciation for real music.
But of course, we can’t make current tunes go away, and GeeGee’s added songs with artists whose names always seem to end with Feat. [insert name here] to her own tween list of favorites. So, she listens to her music on her radio in her room, while I reserve the right to refuse requests to turn the car radio to her hippity-hoppity station or whatever the kids are calling music these days. That’s unless Jamie’s in the car with us, as was the case on the ride home from church. “Dad, you guys listened to your songs already. Is it my turn now?” Despite my silent objections over being subjected to this “music”, he changed the station and she took it a step further: “Can you turn up the volume, dad?” He obliged…and even sang along:
“I’m gonna pop some tags, I got twenty dollars in my pocket…This is. Awesome.”
My mind spun: Are you kidding me? How is this a song? What does “pop some tags” even mean? I couldn’t take it anymore: “You know this song?” Jamie smirked, “Yeah…you know: popping tags” (as if he actually knew what that meant) and continued singing. Then GeeGee chimed in “Yeah, mom. Thrift Shop. It’s a really good song.” Then they sang…or talked…or rapped…or whatever is done in that “song.”
It was like they had their own private little club. And I wasn't in it.
I did want in on their cool little hippity-hoppity-tag-poppin’ club, but I just couldn’t wrap my brain around this insanity I was hearing: This can’t be considered singing and what kind of deep-social-awareness message is “This is. Awesome.” I mean, at least with Safety Dance there was an underlying theme of …. Okay, so that’s not a good example, but people at least sang in One Night in Bangkok, none of this talking disguised as rap…well the chorus had a tune. But you have to give it to Somebody’s Watching Me. That was a song about relating to the larger world and…um. Perhaps not. So that’s three strikes right there.
So I started thinking: could it be that the songs of my youth sounded just as crazy to my mother as this crop of new music sounds to me? Most likely. I remember riding around from errand to errand wishing against wish that she’d change her elevator music station to something else. Anything else. But she never did. Consequently, we never quite saw eye-to-eye on music. She thought Sting’s songs were tuneless Gregorian chants, and she had no idea why my friends and I would risk our hearing by going to see the Clash in concert. She did, however, love – and I mean love – Bohemian Rhapsody. And that was only because of the chorale and impeccable harmonies.
But I want better than that. For GeeGee and for me. And I really want to be in the cool hippity-hoppity-tag-poppin’ club too. Maybe it’s time she feels the joy of sharing her music with me as I felt when I shared my music with her. So for better or for worse, I will crack that radio station dial every now and then and tune into what GeeGee wants to hear…and down the road, she’ll have memories of all us singing in unison “I wanna pop some tags…”
Not likely. But changing the radio station’s a good start.
Mommy Bloggers. We chronicle our joys, triumphs and challenges with humor and honesty, and above all - convey how much we love our little ones, our desire to bond with them. Inhale them. All the time. Forever and ever amen. At least that's how it seems to me.
Those sentiments are easy enough when our kids are tots -- or as a friend puts it, "squishable." It's a whole other milieu when they're tweens -- independent enough to pack a sack lunch, yet dependent enough to need and crave mom and dad's attention. Especially, and of course, the need and craving is on their demand.
It's a precarious balancing act; and if I was being honest, I'd tell you that I struggle with clicking my brain between GeeGee's preoccupation with her artistic renderings of dragons all sizes, shapes, factual and fictitious, getting the latest techno-gadgetry and the questions about her body, mortality, and just being a square peg who can still get along with her peers. And this is all within an hour of her waking.
The past few weeks have been wrapped up in all those challenges and questions along with sassy-ness, rolling-eyes, exasperated sighs and general-boundary testing that I never would've dreamed of doing when I was her age. So guess what? I haven't been feeling like the model Mommy Blogger. Unless the model Mommy Blogger is a person who knows that snapping her kid in line is a part of the mother job, but she detests it anyway. Unless the model Mommy Blogger is a person who feels like she's the Bad Cop with no sense of humor while her husband's the Fun, Approachable One. Unless the Mommy Blogger is the person who sometimes feels llike a Square Peg in this whole motherhood adventure.
But the truth is, both Jamie and I felt like all of us were entering new, uncharted territory. And it's not that GeeGee was out of control, but things were just...different.
We knew she needed -- and that we needed to do -- something beyond the bottles, diaper changes and rocking that it took to make everything okay in what seemed to be only a couple of days ago. But in fact, those couple of days ago were really nearly ten years of history, so we did one of the bravest things I think parents can do: we talked...and listened. Mostly listened. We asked questions whose honest answers could potentially crumble our fragile egos. Questions like: What do you need from mom and dad? Are there things mom and dad are doing that don't make you happy? What are they?
Her answers and our responses are irrelevant for the purposes of this post; but what is relevant is that we realize this parenting journey is bigger and longer than the developmental milestones, the debate between cloth or disposable diapers, or store-bought versus homemade baby food, because the other, also real part of parenting starts after we surmount those initial building blocks.
And that part of also-real-parenting includes being open enough to learn, listen and grow right along with our kids.
What kind of mother considers telling her child that “Santa went to Heaven?” or says “I need this kid to stop believing in Santa.” A bah-humbug-scroogey mom, that's who. Actually that "who" was me.
Of course, it didn’t start out that way. It never does. In each of the past eight years, Jamie and I religiously sought out the Fat Man like groupies stalk rockstars so GeeGee could tell him what was on her Christmas list, and so we could snap the annual visit with Santa photo.
We continued feeding the charade through the years, throughout the season and through the Big Night. There were cookies and milk for Santa; carrots for the reindeer; notes from Santa to GeeGee. When she was old enough to noodle around on the computer, we’d email Santa, track his flight across the world enroute to our house and made sure GeeGee was tucked in and asleep for his arrival.
The charade was fun.
But feeding the ravenously hungry lie behind the charade was draining. As GeeGee entered her tweens, the wish list grew – and so did the potential expense of fulfilling her wishes: a $175-something hand-held game; a $300-some-odd gaming system; and iPad….AN iPad?! Sure, we've had talks about mom and dad not being able to afford all these big-ticket items, but GeeGee reasoned (quite logically) that if mom and dad couldn’t afford the stuff, then Santa could.
Which is why, by this Christmas, I was precariously teetering on the point of saying “Seriously! You’re ten now – 10 years old – that’s TWO numbers! For the love of pete, when are you gonna stop it with this Santa business?”
Enter the big box. Her present. A big, heavy box that I picked up while Jamie was at work and she was at school and the Fat Man was nowhere to be found. I lugged it out of my car, over the sidewalk, up the porch stairs, into the house and pushed it to our bedroom. Draped it in a towel, and left it there so Jamie could assemble the contents, because after all, Santa doesn’t do assembly either.
A day later, GeeGee said “Um…I saw a box in your bedroom the other day. It had a towel on it and, um…” A year ago, hearing her say such a thing would’ve made my blood run cold and I would’ve come up with some super-lame-keep-the-charade-alive lie. This year, I was only tempted to use this as the opportunity to tear into my anti-Santa rant. But I didn’t. Instead, I just flat-out denied any knowledge of the monster box and told her to ask her dad about it. Done.
Until Christmas Eve. That night she handed her letter to Santa to me. Here we go again, I thought. “Can you make sure you leave this out for Santa?” Yes. “And cookies and milk?” Yes. “Also, leave the carrots out for the reindeer.” Got it handled.
GeeGee’s letter didn’t say word one about what she wanted or even a thank you. She was asking Santa if he was real. She even made a column on the page for his response. Unable to compose anything besides “Thank you for letting us off the hook! Love, Mom and Dad,” I let Jamie answer. He came up with a tender response “…you can believe in me as long as you want to. But I will always believe in you.”
Christmas Morning. “Santa’s not real is he? I mean, this is dad’s handwriting.” While I had my head stuck in the sand, Jamie had a sweet conversation with GeeGee about the Fat Man, Christmas and what that day really means to us as Christians, and how even though Santa’s not real, we can still enjoy the idea of him. Satisfied, she hugged and kissed both of us and went on to enjoy her presents – without caring whether Santa brought them or whether we did. Admittedly, I was a little sad about GeeGee leaving that part of her childhood behind.
But when no one was looking or listening, I could be heard gleefully mumbling under my breath:
The jig’s up, Fat Man.
February 2000 was the year I started working at IMPACT, local nonprofit. Because I write grant requests, I’d regularly pore over data about the people – many of them poor and struggling - who reached out to us for help. We gather a lot of information about them – things like the ZIP codes where they live, the kind of help they’re asking for, how many people are asking for help, and a bunch of other quantifiable information.
To be honest, I hadn’t connected the dots between the data and the lives connected to them until I was reviewing an Unmet Needs report for a proposal I was writing nearly ten years ago, when I was a new mom to five-month-old GeeGee. (Unmet Needs are things that people request, but there’s nothing available to fulfill the request.) On the list of unmet needs were about 1,700 requests for baby formula and baby food. Which meant that 1,700 times, there were some moms who didn’t have what they needed to feed their child. Or children.
That’s when the dots, the numbers and the lives connected for me. I stared glassy-eyed at the report and thought about GeeGee: What if she was one of the at least 1,700 kids whose mom couldn’t feed her. What if I had been that mom who couldn’t feed her hungry child? Seriously: what would I do?
There’s been some distance between those baby years and now. And to a certain extent, the connection between the dots, the data and the lives faded somewhat to me. Theoretically, I knew more people – more families -- are struggling than there were ten years ago, and the data we have at IMPACT makes that perfectly clear. Now the callers’ ZIP codes aren’t just from Milwaukee’s inner city. They’re also from the suburbs – Franklin, Oak Creek, Ozaukee – places where “poor people don’t exist.”
Maybe I had just grown used to the data. Maybe I had become too busy planning birthdays, holidays and extracurriculars for the data to shock, move or touch me.
But then I happened upon a program called “Poor Kids.” In it, kids talk about how they live with poverty, what it feels like, and things that worry them. Things like high gas prices, how expensive fruits and vegetables are, how storage facilities work when a family's been evicted…things kids should never have to worry about. One of the interviewed kids was 9 years old.
Just like my GeeGee.
Which got me thinking: even though our family isn’t at either extreme -- poor or rich -- we’re comfortable. But we’re just as vulnerable to poverty as these families – as these “poor kids”…and I think most families are. In fact, the homeless rate among families has gone up 60% in the past few years.
It’s hard to see families teetering on the brink. But sometimes, I think watching programs like this is a good exercise to help everyone remember that lives of families, lives of kids – are behind the dots and data.
At least it was for me.
Funny…it’s been roughly five years that I’ve had the pleasure of blogging for milwaukeemoms and I don’t think I’ve ever said “Thank you” to you – the person who reads these posts. So…thank you. Truly thank you for reading my thoughts, my opinions, my worries, my, my, my…there’s just a lot of me wrapped up in what I write. And most times it’s my opinion on GeeGee’s life. What about her opinion, her voice?
How does she feel about “The Great Box-Checking Dilemma?” About a hundred years ago, I lamented the fact that I couldn’t check two boxes for GeeGee’s race on some registration form, even though she is two races. Most recently, I vented about it on my personal blog. Both were about how box-checking impacts me, not her.
Maybe I was being selfish and had never considered how she’d handle the same dilemma. Or maybe I was just hoping she'd never have to deal with it. That was unrealistic, it was bound to happen sooner or later, and it did. So, here’s GeeGee's viewpoint (with some add-ins from me, of course).
“Mom, I have to talk to you about a test we took today. There was a part for Ethnicity…you know, where you color in the oval for Black, White, Hispanic, Asian…So I raised my hand and told the teacher that I’m two things. My teacher told me I could only pick one. So I did.
It kind of made me mad.”
IMPORTANT NOTE HERE: It wasn’t the teacher who was making her choose and I knew that. These were standardized tests where the computer gets confused about two ovals within the same field being completed. In all honesty, I feel badly that a system puts teachers in the delicate position of telling kids what she had to tell GeeGee that day. I explained that and more. But this post is about GeeGee’s response, not mine.
The next day on the way to school, we talked about it a little bit more.
“I filled in the oval for ‘Black.’ But I’m both. It was kind of like that guy who was at the Black History Program. [We heard “that guy” speak nearly a year ago. He’s a pastor who talked about the very same thing. He's Black, Scottish, French and Spanish if I’m remembering correctly. He told the story of running into the same thing when registering for college. He emphasized that people aren’t just “one thing” and evidently, it resonated with GeeGee]
It’s kind of stupid…I mean, why can’t there just be a form where you can fill out as many ethnicities as you want? It just kind of makes me mad.”
That was GeeGee’s response. Now here’s the Protective-Slightly-Irked Momma Bear’s opinion: I don’t like her being mad – mad about an antiquated system, nonetheless. One that doesn’t recognize the browning of our communities or the difference between race and ethnicity for that matter. Listen, I know that we’re all human – but we’re all different kinds of humans, and so there is some value in demographic tracking.
But the last thing I want for my child is having to pick that she’s “Mom’s kid” but not “Dad’s kid” or vice versa. Narrowing selections to “one only” in the ethnicity section does exactly that. In my view, it robs a little of GeeGee's identity each time she does it.
And that kind of makes me mad.