Changing MY Behavior

Hank had to take a few days off his #30DayPhotoChallenge because he just kept missing the prompt for Day 9, Pôr do Sol (sunset), but I think this image was well worth the wait. Check out all of Hank's photos here.

Hank had to take a few days off his #30DayPhotoChallenge because he just kept missing the prompt for Day 9, Pôr do Sol (sunset), but I think this image was well worth the wait. Check out all of Hank’s photos for the Challenge here.


(sipping our morning coffees: his decaf, mine regular)

Hank: I miss my bed already.

Me: Me, too.

Hank: Why is waking up so hard?

Me: When waking up is hard it is either a sign of unrest or of wonderful dreams you don’t want to leave behind.

Hank: I think I need a sleep mask?

Me: Like Holly Golightly?

Hank: Who is she?

Me: She’s fictional.

Hank: I didn’t get to sleep until past 11.

Me: Wowza!

Hank: It was a combination of my thoughts and Molly’s rocklight (papa invented nightlight).

Me: Hence the need for a sleep mask? I think that can be arranged.

Hank: Thanks, I’d like to try it.

Me: (sigh) What an intense weekend.

Hank: Yah.

Me: We oscillated between restie-pajama-fantastic to kinda screaming at each other far too much.

Hank: Yah.

Me: Your papa and I had a long talk about it on our date over HUG mugs of frosty beers I was almost too arthritic to lift and a big plate of French fries overlooking Porto from Gia at sunset. Quite a majestic view for a shitty conversation, I must admit.

Hank: Yah.

Me: And He helped me come to the conclusion that while you are going through this period of big feelings that I need to stop competing with you.

Hank: What do you mean?

Me: Well, remember when I said when you became a teenager I was going to stop talking and start listening?

Hank: Yah.

Me: Well, your papa hypothesizes that you maybe experiencing the symptoms of teenager early.

Hank: Oh no.

Me: Most probably temporary, seeing as you are only ten.

Hank: I hate growing up. I don’t want to do it and want to do it all at the same time.

Me: Truth. So, I am going to stop winning every argument at great emotional cost to us both, because our disagreements are less and less about what we are actually fighting about and more and more about the toxic soup-sludge of hormones bubbling over inside your body and growing pains, both emotional and physical.

Hank: (harrumphing into his decaf)

Me: Take last night for instance. Flashback to dinnertime: You are on the sofa absorbed in YouTubiverse and I asked you to get the talheres (silverware) for dinner.

Hank: (nodding)

Me: I asked you calmly, but you acted like a bee had just stung your pinkie finger and frantically raised your voice, oozed off the couch and on to the floor in a almost boneless gymnastics maneuver that would have gotten you an 8/10 from the Russian judge then proceeded to yell at me to not yell at you.

Hank: And you weren’t yelling.

Me: And I proved that to you only by changing my behavior. As of Friday if you had spoken to me in that tone I would have screamed, “I’m NOT Yelling!” and eviscerated you for doing exactly what I was doing while tell you not to do it, believing that only by flexing my mother-heavy-weight-championship pro-wrestler voice around would I have control over your outburst and therefore still be the Chef de Família (head of the family).

Hank: But you are! You will always be the Chef de Família (head of the family)!

Me: Oh, but heavy is the head that wears the crown, my boy! Anyway, your papa and I talked…

Hank: On your date, over beers and a great view, over me! (shaking his head, ashamed)

Me: Newsflash! Kids are the parents’ favorite subjects. It starts with spit-up and bowel movements in infancy and only gains speed from there.

Hank: Better than talking about bills, I guess.

Me: HA! You get it, buddy, but we talked about those as well and current events and our creative projects, then saw Blade Runner 2049, which was EPIC, if you’ve read the original book or love the first film…

Hank: Which you do.

Me: Which I do… So, don’t you feel sorry for us, my friend, it was a great date. ANYWAY, we talked and listened to each other’s ideas and I applied a new method of dealing with the toxic-soup-sludge of hormones boiling inside you and it worked out better for both of us, but the hard part for me is trusting that you will always know your place and respect me. I have to trust that you will return to being respectful after a sass-tactic outburst and make a better choice once the hormones settle down and you remember you are loved and honored and an important member of this family. We’ve gotta do this growing up thing together or we’ll grow apart! We can’t let it divide us.

Hank: (eyes fixed on his now empty coffee cup) I never don’t want to be apart of this family.

Me: That is good to hear, because we would never recover if we lost you. You are vital and important.

Hank: So are you! You make the pancakes and papa makes the paper boats!

Me: FROM MEMORY! How does he do that?

Hank: Yah, and you never know when you’re going to need a paper boat until you need one right now!

Me: Exactly.

Hank: Or pancakes.

Me: True Story.

Hank: And Molly makes us laugh.

Me: She does, indeed.

Hank: And… (pause)

Me: And you ask all the important questions. Without you, your papa, Molly and I wouldn’t look at the world through your keen observations and important, intense questions. We would miss the fine details of life that only you see. I couldn’t imagine not living with the daily challenge of helping you solve the riddles that only you’re clever mind could come up with.

Hank: I ask the questions…

Me: The tough questions.

Hank: And you answer them.

Me: We answer them, together.

Hank: I like that.


November 1st

He's one in a million

He’s one in a million, my Hank.


Me: Gooooood morning, Hank! (yawning and stretching)

Hank: I love this day.

Me: Dia dos Santos? The day we honor our ancestors? Or in our case because all of our ancestors are over 600 kilometers away; the day we spend in our pajamas grateful for our ancestors.

Hank: I guess, but I love this day because (with a flourish, like he has planned this moment all morning, presses play on the Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas) IT IS OFFICIALLY TIME FOR CHRISTMAS EVERYTHING!

Me: (pre-coffee giggle)

Hank: I love Christmas.

Me: You do?

Hank: I really do. I love it all. Can we put up the tree? What ornaments are we going to make this year? I love that we make our Christmas decorations. I love all our Christmas traditions! Can we make snowflakes? I promise to help more this year and when we set up the tree I am so excited that Molly is old enough for our tradition of falling asleep under the tree looking at the lights. And I am excited about all the food: your chestnut soup and pork roasted with onions and that spice. What is that strong spice?

Me: Clove.

Hank: YES! (sigh) I have been waiting for this day. Waiting.

Me: Apparently! (walking into the kitchen for coffee)

Hank: (following me) AND THE LIGHTS. I have seen the câmara municipal (city hall) hanging lights all over down town! I can’t wait for them to light them. I love Christmas lights! I hope Guimarães has a big tree in Toural again! Molly is going to love it this year!

Me: She really will.

Hank: (deep sigh)

Me: The lights will be up at the shopping mall. Shall we go have a look this afternoon?

Hank: Already?

Me: Every year on Dia dos Santos. It’s a national holiday! National holidays mean shoppers.

Hank: Yes, please.

Me: And this year why don’t you and I take a train to Porto, just the two of us, and see the lights in biaxa, do a bit of Christmas shopping at your favorite store near Clérigos?


Me: The very one. Then stop at Palacio das Cardosas for a hot chocolate before catching our train home.

Hank: That would be my perfect day! Can I decorate our room this year for Molly and I?

Me: Sure.

Hank: I have been waiting for this all year. The best part of Halloween for me is that the next day is this day and this day means Christmas.

Me: (diving into my coffee, tapping my toes to Vince Guaraldi)



The Price of Being Vulnerable

Photo credit: Hank

Photo credit: Hank, 2017 (10 years old)


Me: Hank, you got a second?

Hank: (looking up from his video game, pausing it) Sure.

Me: I want to ask you a question and regardless of your answer I promise you I will not be upset. Do you believe me?

Hank: What’s wrong?

Me: Really, nothing at all. I would tell you if there was something wrong. I just need to confirm something with you. Cool?

Hank: Okay.

Me: Honestly, does my blog embarrass you?

Hank: What?

Me: Does the fact that I have a blog where I transcribe conversations we share and publish them so anyone and everyone can read them embarrass you?

Hank: No.

Me: Remember, I won’t be upset however you answer.

Hank: Your blog doesn’t embarrass me. I think it is cool that you’re writer.

Me: And the fact that I post conversations both good and bad about your feelings, tantrums, thoughts and fears truly doesn’t upset you.

Hank: No, you tell me all the time when I want you to stop you will, but I don’t think I will ever want you to stop. I like you’re blog.

Me: And you fully understand that I post funny conversations and also hard conversations and arguments, like the ones I show you on my computer and ask your permission before I publish them.

Hank: Of course I understand. Mom, I read your blog every day.

Me: (honest shock) What?

Hank: Mom, I have the internet and I know how to google. I have been reading your blog on my phone for, like, forever. I like your blog. I don’t understand why you would think I wouldn’t want you to write it.


Hank: (his attention back on his video game) Anyway, you say the blog is about me, but that isn’t how I think. Your blog is about you and I am in it.


Hank: (dropping his game, attention back on me) You always talk about no blame and find your part, right? So like, on your blog, after, when it’s bad and I’m like emotional or whatever, I can hear again things you have said, like, all over again when I am calmer because sometimes I know you’re saying important things and I should be listening but I am still, like, mad, you know?

Me: (still in shock that Hank reads this blog, nodding)

Hank: What conversation is this about?

Me: The conversation in the kitchen after you had that big tantrum in front of our house guests?

Hank: And someone is upset?

Me: Pretty much, yah, but really I think some people have held a deep resentment for a long time and only now am I being informed.

Hank: Who is upset? Trolls? People are mean, mom.  Especially on the internet. Mean people don’t matter.

Me: The who isn’t important and no it isn’t trolls. I pay trolls no mind. These concerns come from people we know who love you very much. They feel I shouldn’t post conversations centering around the bad moments, such as disagreements or tantrums. Their opinion is that I should keep those moments private.

Hank: (thinking rather loudly)

Me: (listening)

Hank: Is it okay that I don’t agree?

Me: With me? Absolutely!

Hank: No, not with you, with them.


Hank: That bad day was public. I had that birra (tantrum) in front of seven people. You didn’t even post the bad stuff I said and did before you made me eat dinner and we talked.


Hank: Mom, I don’t want you to stop writing your blog, but if you do I understand and support you.

Me: That is very kind and compassionate, Hank, thank you.

Hank: Do you want to stop writing your blog?

Me: No, as long as I have your consent and you know that at anytime you can change your mind and promise you will come talk to me. No fear and no shame.

Hank: Mom, you ask me every time before you put a birra (tantrum) on the blog.

Me: Do you say yes because you want my approval or because you feel you have to say yes to please me?

Hank: NO! I have said no. Sometimes I say no.

Me: True.

Hank: And then you don’t post it.

Me: True, but do you feel like you have to be supportive?

Hank: No.

Me: Honestly?

Hank: I promise. It’s a blog. It’s not like it is YouTube or SnapChat.

Me: Hank, this is very important. I want to you hear me: I have zero problems being wrong, admitting I am wrong and apologizing when I am wrong. I never shy away from a conflict that can be resolved. It has come to my attention that I have a different opinion about the way I choose to raise you and the way I choose to document it than some people who love you very much. I respect them. I have listened with an open heart and defended by position on the matter, but I have a feeling on the subject of sharing the good and the bad conversations we share online they will never be supportive.

Hank: Who is this?

Me: That isn’t important, because none of this is your fault, you are not a part of this disagreement and all people involved love you. This kind of disagreement can happen when someone is more willing to be visibly vulnerable. This is a common disagreement between an artist or writer and people who love them. If anyone reaches out to you and voices their concerns I ask you to please, listen to them with an open heart and know that regardless of the words that they use their feelings are love.  You don’t have to agree, but I’m asking you to hear the love behind it. And if this kind of discussion takes place please talk to someone about how you feel. It doesn’t have to be me. You can ask anyone else in our tribe. And I don’t care if it is tomorrow, three years from now or twenty: the day you need me to stop the blog is archived, that very day, and more importantly the day you need it to be private my blog will be taken down from public view.

Hank: I know that.

Me: You do? Promise?

Hank: I promise.

Me: Thank you for listening and for reassuring me that you know you have control over the conversations I share. (getting up to go)

Hank: Don’t we help people?

Me: (sitting right back down)

Hank: Well, not we, you because you do all the work and I just love you and talk to you, because you’re my mom, but we meet people sometimes and they know who I am, like that lady in Porto once, the one at the picnic and that other lady at The Women’s March. I remember her from when we went to see the Miró art she was nice and then later, on a completely different day, at the March we were there and I heard her ask you if I was Hank from the blog and she thanked you because she read it or something, I don’t know it was a while ago or whatever.  I like your blog and not because other people like it, but because I can hear you when I read it. Does that make sense? In my head, when I read it, I hear you. I hear your voice. That is why I like it and why I read it.

Me: (clearing my throat, desperately trying to not get emotional) I had no idea you read it.

Hank: (attention back to his game) Oh yah, every day since papa bought me my phone so that was like forever ago.

Me: (deep cleansing breath) Thanks for talking to me about this, Hank.

Hank: (nonchalant) Sure, mom, no problem.

Me: (getting up to leave)

Hank: And mom?

Me: Hum?

Hank: (not looking up from his game) Maybe you should post this conversation on your blog so people know I am okay.

Me: I don’t know…

Hank: (interrupting, looking up) Please, mom. I want you to.