To Our Village: Please Don’t Gender Our Children

I dread the day when my little boy realizes he isn't supposed to play with Minnie and will be mocked for his exuberant cries that "Minnie have a bow!"

This post is the email I sent friends and family asking them to assist Seth and I in creating a gender-flexible, non-hetero-normative environment for our twins. 

It truly does take a village to raise a child.  All of you are part of ours, and we are grateful beyond words to have each and every one of you.

I have been thinking about this email since before my children were born, and the time has come for me to sit down and write it.  When I thought about what I most wanted to communicate here I think what it boils down to is that we need your help.  Beyond Seth and I, you form the closest circle around O and J – a circle that has the power to build the kind of world in which they grow up.  We can’t necessarily change the realities of the outside world, but we can create a buffer, an alternative, a safe place to fall, a refuge, a place where they can be who they truly are.  It is with that in mind that I ask you to open your hearts and minds and consider how you can wield the great power you have in J and O’s lives in order to help us create that safe space.

When I went into my kids’ room this morning, my sweet J was standing up in his crib, exuberant, clutching his stuffed Minnie Mouse as he does every morning.  He shouted gleefully, “Hello Minnie!  I kiss Minnie!  Minnie have a bow!”

“Hello Minnie!”  I responded.

Across the room, my precious O was clutching the matching Mickey with a sly smile on her face.  She did a little shoulder shimmie when she saw me.  The night before as we headed up to bed, she had said softly, “Minnie?” making sure her companion would be in her crib with her.

No, my son doesn’t prefer Minnie to Mickey.  The fact is, my kids don’t know the difference between Minnie and Mickey.  They call them both Minnie.  Either doll will suffice at night when they can’t go to sleep without “Minnie.”  Why?  My kids don’t know what gender is.  Yes, they are too young, but also, we haven’t taught them.

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It Shouldn’t Feel Wrong to Admit I’m Alone and Happy in Hawaii

Hawaii Surf... Ahhhhh

Today, as it has for the past two days, the calendar on the wall in our house says Mama Away in blue magic marker.  “Mama go Auntie” my kids would say as I rehearsed with them that I would be leaving and when I would be returning.  I never expected my newly two year-old twins to get how many days I’d be gone, or even that the blue marker means mama is away and the green means mama is here.  The big takeaway was supposed to be mama WILL be back.

“Mama go Auntie” is toddler for me flying to Hawaii to sing in a close friend’s wedding.  Because that’s why I’m here, to sing, right?  It would be wrong to disappoint a close friend.  I’ve found myself doing a lot of rationalizing over the past weeks when the topic of my trip has come up.  But I’ll tell you the truth – as I sit here in a quiet hotel room listening to waves crash outside my window.  I am not here on some kind of mission of mercy, to throw myself on the sword, leaving my babies to fend for themselves with no one but their totally capable father, as well as grandfather, grandmother and babysitter.  I am here because I won the fucking twin mommy lottery.  At the perfect time, just when I need it most, just when I thought I was going to explode with restlessness and tedium, a close friend asked me to sing in her wedding in Hawaii.

Two days ago I walked through the airport all alone, boarded a plane for a ten hour flight, which I spent deliciously, luxuriously unplugged and alone.  No internet, no phone, no patients, no demanding toddlers, no husband wanting to know why I’m so “prickly” lately.  I can remember 5 hours into the flight, after I had done a crossword puzzle, napped, and read, thinking to myself how happy I was that I still had five hours left.

The last time I rode a plane without toddlers was before my pregnancy.  It felt completely unworthy of comment at the time, even inconvenient.  You would think I would have been eager to arrive in Hawaii, but the funny thing is I don’t think Hawaii was even real to me at that moment.  All that was real to me was time.  This long, delicious stretch of uninterrupted, unplanned time with no demands.

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What’s in a Name? On Being DadaMama Instead of MaMa

Sometimes I still wish to be the one who walks beside my children, while others follow.

Originally Appeared here on

Only when my twins were 20 months old did they master the correct use of the words “mama” and “dada.”  They took quite a long time to even SAY these words, despite beginning to talk about six months prior.  Their first words were “uh oh” and “ba ba” (bottle), (ba)”nana,” “hi,” “bye” and “boon” (balloon).  I figured, okay, as long as they are starting to say words, no problem.  But on the inside I was wondering what was wrong.  Was I, as Mama, not as important to them as I should be if they learned “boon” first?  Had I been neglectful somehow?  I couldn’t help measuring myself against other moms with kids younger than mine who were constantly saying “Mama.”

In the next few months the twins started throwing around the words Mama and Dada, but they didn’t seem to be in reference to anyone.  Sometimes they would point at the window or a light switch and shout “Mama.”  Sometimes they were directed toward Seth or I, but also toward the babysitter, Grammy and Grampy, aunts and uncles, etc.  What was this about?  Wasn’t I supposed to be much more important than these other folks?

My anxiety only increased when their words started to get more complex.  They started saying “window,” “shake it” (when we danced) and “okra.”  My daughter started to refer to her Minnie Mouse doll as “Minya Minya Maow” and her stuffed kangaroo as “Kanga.”  Really, I thought, you know Minnie and Kanga and Hippo and Poo Bear and not Mama?  I was starting to feel peeved.  Okay, maybe even a little hurt. Then something strange began to happen.  One day my daughter looked right at me, and with a big smile, and great exuberance, as though she’d had had a revelation, she shouted “Dada!” and pointed in my direction.  Over the next couple weeks both babies began to refer to my husband AND me as DaDa.

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The Parenting Olympics – Toddler Class

I was thinking yesterday about the Olympics, and how I couldn’t possibly be more oblivious.  Then I realized I am participating in my own Olympics.  Yes, that’s right people, I deserve a medal!  In honor of the Summer Olympics in…?  Ah well, here we go:

The Parenting Olympics – Toddler Class

PLAYGROUND CHASE - Helicopter Parenting Event


Clothing – Olympian must cloth toddler as quickly as possible

Judging:  Score based on best time.  Missing limbs off of toddler result in disqualification.

Retrieval of Dangerous Objects – Olympian must retrieve objects from a number of toddlers before they become injured, such as sharp items, plastic bags, and items that are small enough to swallow, hot, and or could remove the eye of another toddler.

Judging:  Score based on bodily integrity of toddlers in one’s group at conclusion of event.

Medicine Administration:  Olympian must administer oral antibiotic to screaming toddler with ear infection.  Sedating toddler is prohibited.

Judging:  Toddler who stops screaming the soonest is assumed to have received the most medicine, thus rendering the corresponding olympian the winner.

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