by Michael Pyette
I really wanted to be a father. I was looking for somebody with a beautiful spirit, a beautiful home, smarts and strength. I had to feel she would look after our kid to the best of her ability. The only way I could really gage this is by how she treated me and those around her. I loved her for the way she treated my feelings and the way she lit up when I entertained her to the best of my ability. I fell in love with her and the forest she brought me to on one of our first meetings. I had my heart broken previously by a woman with kids. All of my stars were telling me that I needed to start my own family and she was where I wanted to. I was strangely really open and upfront about wanting babies.
We loved spending time in the woods. When we did find out we were pregnant, we both happily remembered the time we knew it happened. Women are beautiful because they let a man know how welcome he is. So I was very welcome that time. In my eyes, she is a home and when I deserve and need her I get to be near her.
My energy was hers to accept and grow. All I could do was feed her, keep her safe, well loved and entertained. The first baby was way easier. The second pregnancy while having our year and a half year old is one of the hardest things in my life yet.
As a pregnant woman, she has the right to eat whatever she wants, see whoever she wants and do whatever she wants. I look out for what I see as best for her, but what she does is a different story. Now that we have our son some of the best help I can give is looking after him. I am here to look after her while she is pregnant when she needs me. I won’t judge her if all she wants is pizza and chicken wings. I encourage her to eat the best ish around, and I rub her feet. I have also realized that alone time is sometimes the best gift you can give someone.
I am a protective man. I am a flawed man. Teachings from all over Turtle Island tell me that women are divine. They are in tune with the Earth and the Moon. She is in tune with the Sun and her Son. When I’m not in her orbit, I am learning to leave.. quickly.
She is creating, so I create too. She makes a baby, I make a tikanagan, a cradleboard. When she has rhythm, I sing. When she is loud, I dance. Maybe there are two spirits in us both. Whatever brings the best for everyone is what’s important. Our life is a fine balance and constant juggle. I am a hardworking clown.
I pray to the Thunderbirds. I pray to the Phoenixes. As a man, I fly. I zoom.. or I drive my car lots. Sometimes I land to lie near my nest. Sometimes I roam to provide. Sometimes I groom to heal. I hear and feel and I act. Sometimes I’m too quick, sometimes too slow.
I really feel the Sun. Lately, I wake up before sunrise because I feel him stir. It’s a good time to be creative or to get ready to hunt. It’s a good time for mischief. Some Haudenosaunnee teachings say a man isn’t supposed to hunt while the woman he accompanies is pregnant. I didn’t listen to that one.
I still got the deer. But she wouldn’t eat it. So began a whole bunch of other disagreements. Wise men say that the women are always right. It’s true. I was about to explain why, then I backspaced. Us men have to be magicians to survive. We need our darkness and mystery. That’s where we find the gifts that we bring back to those we love. And women need that too.
We gender our 18 month old son by calling him our son. But he wears all colours and has all kinds of dolls. He learns to wrestle, sing, draw, sweep the floor and clean up after himself. Attachment parenting is intense and rewarding. We both cuddle him in bed and change his diapers.
What we both agree is that we want to raise our kids close to the land. We want them to speak Kanien’ke:ha and Anishinaabemowin, languages that weren’t passed on to us. We spent a part of our summer up at Nimkii Aazhibikong, an Ojibwe immersion camp near Serpent River First Nation. Our baby lived in a tent with us while everything was being built. He watched us work and was spoken lovingly to by Elders. He sat by the fire and ate and laughed with us all. He even took his first step in a wigwam!
We pow wowed, listened to the wolves, watched the stars, made art, peeled logs, put a roof on a kitchen. We went swimming in a waterhole and explored sacred sites. It was ace. Sometime after we got home we found out there was another baby on the way. Yeah we kinda knew. And then the fun wound down for caretaking time.
As a mixed Dietsch and Michif man, I loved it in the North. There were lots of aunties to help with the babe and kitchen and I was there to work hard to set things up. My warrior spirit grew strong. I am glad our babies were there. She is Haudenosaunnee, and she wanted to go home. I had to follow my babies.
So we are in her territory now, where things began. It’s a place where I walk lightly as a guest. I can’t wait to build a tiny home and take whoever wants to come back up North. For now, I am within calling distance because I never know when they will need me. My kids deserve to have a dad when they need me. For now, I work and putter and play to keep myself calm as dads tend to.
I was given my teachings for how to be a father by my Dad. His low-Germanic nature is loyal, providing, stern and steadfast. Gently absent from work and available for what matters. My Métis Mother and Uncle are vivaciously entertaining, nurturing and playful. Spontaneous and sparky. I am really glad to be alive and looked after by both sides of my family. Raising kids is intergenerational work. Grandparents are an essential backbone to tiny lives.
What I’ve learned about Haudenosaunnee society is that women are amazingly powerful, and mothers especially so. I am glad for this. I put tobacco down and am glad my son has almost always been near his mother while he is young. Sometimes I was jealous that he loved her so much. But I realize that this leaves me free to wander, to build good things around them, and to bring comfort when they need it.
My son loves to swim with me, to wrestle, climb things. He loves to sing and he loves to drum because I take him out to do these things. He loves to visit our dog and sometimes he pulls us in the stroller or toboggan. He spends time with his uncles as well, who watch over and teach him. One day I will hunt with my son too. For now, we go on walks together. Good men are needed to help raise kids. It is everyone’s job and I’m glad I’m not the only one.
I’m glad for every minute I get to spend with him. Everyday is hard and I think about him and the next one to come. Having kids is like weights that tie us to this Earth and make us care. Everything I do they inherit. Almost everything we do he copies. He is a funny, smart kid. I am full of love and gratitude. I’d write more, but it’s getting hard. If you met him in person he’d make you laugh.
I wish you all happy babies, if you want them. Happy, healthy sex lives. Cuddles. Fertility if you need it. Deer in your freezers. Strength if you’ve already got kids. A clear head if you don’t have any. Laughter and song if you’re stressed. Kids are part of our struggles. Miigwech to everyone who has welcomed ours in unconventional community spaces, at rallies and in music making. So many smiles make him know he is loved. Babies are village medicine meant to be shared.
Michael Pyette is Dietsch from Saskatchewan and Michif from Manitowaning, Manidominis. Born and raised in Tkaronto, Onta:rio, he roams around the countryside and urban ravines learning to rewild and resist. Art and ceremony are essential healers that teach us how to be in the world. He is thankful for all influences, teachers, family and friends.