Flying with Toddlers Sucks, This Advice Doesn't

As I am currently procrastinating studying for a final, and I leave for a trip almost immediately afterwards, I have decided to take the plunge on blogging about travelling with a toddler. I’ve flown to see my father every year since my son was born, and I picked up some lessons along the way. Many of them were definitely learned the hard way. Here are my top 10 learned lessons, so hopefully you can avoid the same mistakes I did.

1.) Take the earliest flight, it will be hell, but worth it. Kind of like jogging. You hate it during the moment but afterwards feel like a bad ass for taking the plunge. The earliest flight does mean your kid is simultaneously groggy, bouncing everywhere, and clingy. Buuuut the security and check in lines will be shorter. Security will also want nothing to do with you or your emotionally unstable little one, so the process will be even quicker.

2.) Pack a stroller. I repeat, make sure you have that freaking stroller. It means your kid can’t escape (without having to use one of those bizarre kid leashes parents insist on buying). Plus if the little one gets tired it’ll save you from weight lifting across the airport. Additionally if you’re worried about overhead storage Amazon sells quite a few strollers that break down into a size small enough for an overhead compartment. My kid is 4, but the size of a 6 year old, and I fully intend on strapping him in.

3.) Early board. I have heard differing parenting advice about this, but it allows you the time to get situated and comfortable. Plus with it being that 6 a.m. flight it means your kid is more likely to partake in a catnap before the flight.

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November Explanations

Blogging will always be a hobby of mine, not quite a passion but definitely beloved. The implication is that my actual passions will take the stage, and they do. I juggle so many hats that the role strain is felt often and intensely. The easiest hat to put in the garbage, throw some cyanide on and forget about is blogging. That doesn’t make it right to my readers, but it’s where I am at.

I made the promise early this month that I would focus on promoting Indigenous rights and awareness. It is Native Awareness Month after all, this month is my safe haven. It’s my ballsy month where I can write about colonization and not fear offending someone. It’s my prideful month where I rock my mocs, and create beauty. It’s my largest support month where I binge purchase items from Indigenous companies to support them (plus their merchandise is always fucking banging). But this month I did not profit from my platform.

I wanted so badly spread Indigenous Awareness on everything like it was freaking Nutella. I wanted to pull out all these statistics on Native health disparities, such as colonialism being the cause for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous women (National Inquiry into the Missing And Murdered Indigenous women, 2018). I wanted to shout that the Violence against women’s act (2013) did not fully protect Native women or solve the issues of violence against us. I wanted to quote that colonization is the root cause of the shift in devaluing Indigenous women but also the creator of acceptability in violence against us (Weaver,2009). But I did not flood my platform with information. I failed.

I want to say I had a great reason, that I was too busy being a water fighter or protesting or anything. But I was just so tired. This year, instead of only targeting my friends or followers I chose to target my classes. I had two massive projects (on top of finals because the universe is cruel) and for both I chose Native issues, in part because I wanted to study them but also to educate non-Natives about our health disparities. My classmates will be professionals in the health field, if they work with even 1 Native I want them to do it from an educated standpoint (you know instead of mentioning being 1/48th Native and comparing their struggles to that of intergenerational oppression). So I created a presentation, with a gender transformative intervention, for violence against indigenous women. For another class I tackled the overwhelming disparities in Indigenous suicide rates, in particular those of our youth. I created an upstream model in education to combat what residential schools have left us with. And it was exhausting.

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I am Indigenous

It is finally Indigenous Awareness Month! This is my absolute favorite month of the year, partly because of the weather but mostly because I thrive on bringing awareness to Native rights, culture, and simply creating exposure for an often forgotten people. This month started off with a bang for me, since I voted early today. As I was registering the woman helping me looked at my form smiling, she candidly told me “You are my first American Indian to register”. This simple statement created a wealth of pride inside me but also reinforced a loneliness that is always there.

Although I am half Ojibway from a First Nation tribe in Canada, there is often this disconnect between my Indigenous self and whom society perceives me to be. I used to hide that I was Native, because so many people tried to take away my Indigenous identity. People chose to shame me since I do not fit prettily into the “Pocahontas” stereotype people have for Indigenous women. I have pale skin. I have white privilege. By all accounts to society I am not what my paperwork or Indian status card says. There is also the reality that like many Natives, I do not live on or near my reserve.

Eventually I just stopped caring what box the rest of the country wanted to put me in. My father is a council member of our reserve. I can easily trace my direct ancestry to the chiefs of our tribe. I have status, with a laminated government identification to keep track of the First Nation people. I have a reserve. So much of my identity is tied into being Indigenous, why should I throw this away because American society tells me I do not look like a Disney character? Why should I have to explain myself and justify who I am? The truth is I do not and I will not.

I have devoted my entire Public Health education to tracking health disparities between Indigenous people and non-Hispanic white communities. From the lack of clean drinking water on too many reserves, to diseases like diabetes, and to the heinous crimes against our women. I want answers, I want solutions, but most of all I want to understand how such massive health disparities even began. I would never have had the confidence to devote my education to tribal health if I had discarded my identity because of what society said about me.

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Bonding over Colonization

When my husband and I first met there seemed to be more differences than similarities. For one he was this sexy hunk from India who was surprisingly tall and unsurprisingly handsome. I, on the other hand, am American (my dad’s side is 100% First Nation though- Shout out to the Ojibways!) and I was a single mother, which meant I could totally be cute as fuck but was usually too sleep deprived. He worked as an accomplished software engineer, and I was trying to get accepted into a Public Health program. He was a legitimate adult, with life insurance and an adult job. I was still figuring my future career out. Of course, none of this mattered once we fell in love, but there was something we unexpectedly bonded over- our family’s history of colonization. I know what you’re thinking, that’s not romantic in the least, but hear me out.

Canada’s policies of cultural genocide, from residential schools to other forms of forced assimilation and discrimination, has left many tribes trying to find themselves, including my own. The First Nation people are strong and resilient, but there is still the reality of Native stereotyping, health disparities and the intentionally forced loss of identity. I have been searching for my culture for a long time. Ankit comes from a land that is so rich in traditions, but the violence of colonization has left ripple effects of current violence. The colonization of Indigenous people has additionally left the devaluing of Canada’s First Nation people and the United States’ Native American populations. Native people in general have some of the highest rates of diabetes, and heart disease. They have the actual highest rates of death by car accidents, rape, and violence against women. Likewise, India has a rape culture that their recent feminist movement is trying to bring to light.

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Today I am Happy

These past couple weeks have been hard. And not that cute hard where I’m just overwhelmed by school work. No, it is the triggered, how-can-I-escape-this type of hard, where I just want to crawl under a rock and NOT watch the news. I could write a blog about it, but the truth is my blog has always been a safe place. It has been an outlet for raw moments of my anxiety, an extra zone to work through an issue in therapy, or just a place to express moments of joy. Even giving this intro pulls forth the moments of feeling my soul being torn from me, and feeling thoroughly alone through my traumatization. So instead, I will be blogging about what it means to me to finally be able to laugh, sing to music off key (not to mention as loud as I want) in my car again, and to look forward to my future instead of being entrenched in my past.

For a long time there was no laughter in my life. There were moments of joy, but actual ribs hurting laughter was non-existent. Instead catatonic binge watching of Lord of the Rings was my reality. I only watched LOTR because nothing in it could remind me of my life. So on it played, with my body unmoving and unseeing. Laughter came back to me slowly. It began with condescending smiles, and transformed into my obese dog farting so viciously that my husband and I are overcome with mirth (we obviously have the sense of humor of 9 years olds). When I even chuckle, I know what a privilege it is. There is no guarantee that life will be pretty, or that trauma will not happen. There is also no right that a person will be able to escape their pain. I know for me, I never thought I would. Laughter is the most beautiful sound in the world.

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The Perfection Myth

When I first had my son I desperately strived to be the perfect mom. When he started taking solids I made sure they were organic, with shit like quinoa in them (even though I did not eat quinoa myself and honestly had no idea what it was, just that it HAD TO BE GOOD). I drove myself crazy making sure I balanced the juggle of motherhood, school and work. I shamed myself for not being able to be perfect when I fell short. I did all this in the vain hope that it would eventually make me this glossy, ideal woman who epitomized what motherhood in this generation should look like. Totally crazy-pants, I know.

It might’ve taken me almost 4 years of motherhood to finally admit this, but spoiler alert: there is no perfect mother out there.

People who say their mother is perfect usually have some weird mommy issues they should work out in therapy. I do not say this to be an asshole, instead I say this because it is time we relieve the pressure off motherhood. We will all have deficits. There will be some days we have to hide in the bathroom for five minutes and scream into the towels because the struggle of terrible threes is real (speaking from current experience). There will be a moment where we say the wrong thing, we don’t use the right words, or we just need a break. All of that is okay. Humans are not meant to be cookie cutter Stepford wives.

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Birthday Woman

Yesterday was my birthday. For those of you wondering my age, I turned 26. My friend texted me that this was the downfall of my 20’s. In some regards she is right. My frontal cortex fully formed last year. I’ve passed all the major milestones officially. In other ways, I feel like my life is finally just beginning.

My mental illness, and a surprise son, aged me sooner than many of my counterparts. I did things out of order, and all jumbled together at once. I had a baby, started the work to finish my degree, got married and bought a house in the process, and have still not begun a career. My life is beautiful, wonderful, and all out of sorts of what I thought it would look like at 26.

I used to think that I had failed my 16 year old me for not being who she thought I would at my age. I’m coming to realize though that I have actually empowered her. I never really believed I could find a healthy marriage (not to mention one that’s full of passion, admiration and mutual respect). I did not believe I could be a stable, let alone a good mother. Nor did I think I would ever find direction in my education. I have all of what I never thought I would find. The dreams she created were based on these events being impossible, and for her struggling to grapple life was hard enough. My life today is what I never thought it would be- completely filled with peace.

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The Notorious E.A.R.

One of my best friends is getting married. We have known each other for well over a decade. We’ve survived fights, tantrums, awful haircuts, questionable boyfriends, and me having a baby, wedding and eventually new family. Now in a short amount of time I get to watch her walk down the aisle, at least I think there’s going to be an aisle. Who knows with wedding venues these days, I got married in a community center with wifi codes on the walls like a fucking boss. Anyways, she recently came to my house to play Halo 2 and NOT talk about feelings. In the process she dropped off her “save the date” refrigerator magnet. On the one hand I was astounded at what wedding products you can get made today, and on the other it made me pretty freaking nostalgic.

When Emily and I first met each other, it was in freshman gym class. She hated me, and I did not even notice. We bonded over our mutual disdain for forced recreational activity and open locker rooms. She was bubbly, happy, and a bit like a puppy. You could not help but love her even if she hated you (obviously I still hold on to that). I was prickly, a loner, and I hated the whole stereotypical high school experience. In a way, we were both outsiders for different reasons. I was too mature for my years, having been aged by a mental illness and subsequent hospitalizations seeking stability. Emily was so easy to be friends with. She did not judge, but not from the typical perspective where you flaunt it, instead she just accepted humans as they were.

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That Special Mole

So I have this mole on my arm. It has always been my suspicious mole. You know, that mole each of us has that is a little unique. It might be a little too raised, or it might be a little too dark, or a little too inconsistent in its colors. It is that mole we can look at and think “this bitch is out to get me.” Well, my super special mole friend recently turned into a wound and proceeded to scab over. This is especially cool and definitely does not have me freaking out in the least. And obviously I only cried on the phone while making my dermatology appointment because I am PMSing and NOT because I know this mole wants it in for me.

My mole is the equivalent to a lecherous old man. On the one hand he could just be creepy and disgusting, but he could also be a predator picking on vulnerable women. I honestly do not know which way this will go since I am not a dermatologist. My field wants us to prevent diseases before they occur, while the medical field pursues the knowledge of fighting diseases once they’ve already happened. My kinky mole friend might be a form of “The Big C word”, “The Pre-Big C word”, or is harmless and just freaking weird. I only know how to prevent diseases, not how to handle when you’re worried you might have one.

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It is okay

Have you ever just felt kind of meh? It is not that the looming beast of depression is hiding behind every corner. Nor do the feelings stem from frustration. They just exist. That feeling of being unsatisfied, of being sort of bored is okay.

So much of my identity is trapped in being a student. There is the lurking reality that I get self esteem from pushing myself to the brink to completely understand health concepts. Without school in my life I struggle to find happiness in the mundaneness of doing the dishes, of making another lunch, or even in decorating my home. It sounds crazy to me that I love the chaos of classes, since I have often felt like I am drowning in them. Yet I cannot seem to shake that feeling of wanting more.

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