Tag Archive | Parenting

The birds and the bees and…the bees?

By Artist not credited (Argument in an Off Key.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s a busy day and I don’t have time for my usual overthinking things.  Instead, I’m going to share a story from the summer that I can’t believe I’ve never posted.  It was the worst (best?) combination of MomFail and Proud Mommy Moment.  Warning: sex stuff.  And gay sex stuff.  Careful of your gag reflex.

When my son turned ten this summer, I did as I do every year and took him to the doctor for his well visit.  This story is not about that, though it factors in peripherally.  While dude was sitting there in his underwear waiting for the doctor to come in, he said,

“Mom, when are you going to tell me how babies get made?”

I gave a nervous glance at the door, sure the doctor would open it literally the moment I started to speak.  I took a deep breath and said, “After your appointment.  I want to have this conversation with you, but not right now because there won’t be time for us to really talk.”

Whew.  Not that I didn’t want to explain it to him, I just didn’t want to be interrupted in the middle.  Turns out that was a Very Good Thing Indeed.

After his appointment, we got back in the car and I asked if he was ready to talk.  He said he was.  I carefully and matter-of-factly explained the mechanics of straight sex to him.  He already knew about sperm and eggs, so there wasn’t much more to say other than how the parts fit together.  He understood it about as well as any ten-year-old, I suppose.

And then I learned that I should never, ever have these conversations while driving.

As soon as I’d finished explaining and he indicated he understood, he said, “So, when a boy has sex with another boy, he puts his penis in the other boy’s butt.”

We nearly got in an accident.

Once I had regained control of the car, I did what any good mother would do.  I calmly answered my kid, right?  Guess again.

I will admit this was not my finest parenting moment.  I said the first thing that came to mind: “Where did you learn that?!”  I was honest to god having visions of my kid clicking on a pop-up window while surfing the Internet and learning far too much about the naked human body.  For about ten heart-stopping seconds, I was in a full-on panic.

Then my son, who is nothing if not logical, said, “No one.  I just guessed.  Boys don’t have vaginas, so that was the only hole I could think of.”

I decided that a discussion about how some men do, in fact, have vaginas could wait.*  I replied, “Well, yes.  Some men have sex that way.”

And that was that.

We moved on.  I told him that the most important thing for him to know is that his body is his and no one has the right to touch it without his permission.  I told him the same thing applies to others, and that he should never, ever touch anyone without making sure it’s okay first.

His response?  “That makes sense, Mom.”

My work here is done.


*We have since had that conversation, in case anyone was wondering.


Ruining our kids

I was already in an irritable mood after seeing Christianity Today refer to Rachel Held Evans as having a “meltdown” because she pointed out the flaw with The Nines conference’s lack of women.  It didn’t help that this awful post on parenting turned up in my newsfeed–more than once, I might add, and not because anyone was being critical.  Nope, everyone seemed to love it.

I can’t speak for other parents, but I’m very tired of people who think that yesteryear’s parenting was so much better than today’s.  It’s like all the other times people talk about wanting to return to “the good old days.”  While there may be some good things we’d like to keep–or reclaim–there’s also a whole lot of terrible things that, unfortunately, cannot be separated from the things we like.  (And there are relationships between them that we’d prefer not to see, as is the case with “1950s values” and racism.)

In this particular post, I was most disturbed by the way that she emphasized the result of what she sees as bad parenting (coddling, apparently) without mentioning a single word about the consequences of other parenting flaws.  For example, she’s concerned that her boys won’t be able to play shoot-the-bad-guys at school, but seems unconcerned that parents might not be adequately teaching their children who is or isn’t “bad.”

There were some specific things that bothered me about what she had to say: boys will be boys (what about girls who like that kind of play?  or boys who don’t?); bullies perpetrate physical violence but claims of emotional bullying are more or less just whining; people become suicidal as a result of a single nasty remark; and college students and new graduates are going home crying over every failure and quitting (as though this didn’t already happen with people born into extreme privilege).

Believe it or not, I don’t care what you let your kids do.  Buy them toy guns?  Whatever.  Don’t buy them?  Whatever.  The reason is that it’s not in the purchase or non-purchase of a particular toy that learning non-violence happens.  Kids are not better off because they are allowed  to play cops and robbers or because they are forbidden from playing.  Ms. Metz has it wrong–boys don’t somehow magically grow up better because they were allowed to play certain types of playground games.  Not only that, boys do not grow into better men because they played those games.  That’s part of a particular view of masculinity that says there are certain Normal Things Boys Do, and anyone outside that must either have freak parents who regulate their play or else there’s something unmanly about them.  Weirdly, she seems to be blaming parents for the lack of gun play at school, when it is, in fact, the rules of the school restricting play.  She’s conflating parenting with public education and really seems hung up on this gun thing throughout.

As for bullying, I’m super happy for Ms. Metz that she got over whatever things were said to her.  Perhaps she’s just very confident in herself.  I think it’s far more likely that she simply never experienced the kind of emotional, verbal, and sexualized bullying some of us did.  Maybe she doesn’t know what it’s like to go to school and wonder how many hurtful things will be said to you that day or whether the boy who sits behind you is going to grab your ass yet again while the teacher looks the other way.  She might not understand how it feels to walk into a room to a class full of kids calling you an elephant and making “boom” noises at you while you walk, every day.  She probably doesn’t know what it’s like to spend three years trying to find a lunch table where the other kids won’t slowly slide over while you’re eating until you end up on the floor, followed by laughter and fake apologies.  I’m just guessing here, though.

I suppose because Ms. Metz doesn’t understand that kind of harassment, she’s more likely to also misunderstand being suicidal.  I do not know any person who has felt suicidal or attempted suicide or has succeeded who did it simply because some random girl called her a bitch one day.  If a single episode of name-calling sends one to such a dark place, then it wasn’t just because of the mean word–that was just the proverbial straw.  I find Ms. Metz’s words hateful, hurtful, and inappropriate.  They lack any sort of empathy.  I have no idea where she got her information that this is all it takes to make teenage girls commit suicide, either–apparently, she also doesn’t read all the way through stories about bullying and suicide enough to get the whole picture.

On the other hand, college students with helicopter parents are a real issue, so I’ll give Ms. Metz credit for spotting that one.  The way she presents it, though, makes it sound like she’s saying this is happening in dire proportions compared to the number of students enrolled in college.  She’s making blanket statements about “today’s parenting” being responsible for this.  Oh, really?  Because that wasn’t happening before.  Spoiled, bratty kids going to college is totally a new thing, right?

My biggest problem with this post is that it’s so vague.  She never actually says what she thinks is the bad parenting responsible for selfish, needy kids.  She hints that it has to do with “catering” to them, but what does that even mean?  How, exactly, is it “catering” to kids to have a philosophy of not buying toy guns or allowing shooting play?  And how are her kids better off for being allowed to do those things?  In what way does stopping verbal bullying prevent people from being emotionally healthy?  She gets at it a little with her comment about not giving in to them unless they use manners.  But if what she meant is that kids have no manners, why didn’t she just write a post about that?  She says her boys will be emotionally hurt but that she’ll cushion it as much as a mother can.  Isn’t that catering to them?  How will they learn to deal with things if she’s “cushioning” them?

Like the post about how “marriage isn’t for you,” this just smacks of self-righteousness.  The big FAIL for me is that she never once suggests that the best way to help our kids grow up to be responsible, respectful people is to teach them how to treat others.  I didn’t see even one reference to, say, the Golden Rule.  I saw nothing in there about teaching our kids about kind words, respecting personal boundaries, or helping people who need it.  There wasn’t a single word about making things right when we’ve hurt other people.

Ms. Metz claims that she “respects” others’ right to parent how they see fit.  I’m not that nice.  I think if you’re abusing your child, you are a sorry excuse for a parent, and I do not respect your “right” to harm your child.  Beyond that, I’m just not that concerned with what you do.  As for me, I’m going to worry less about whether I’m “overprotective” and more about whether I’m teaching my kids that all people have value.  That strikes me as far more important than whatever vague badness Ms. Metz is suggesting I avoid.

FYI (if you’re a mom of teenage boys)

Dear moms,

I have some information that might interest you. Last night, as I sometimes do, I sat on my couch and looked at social media on my phone.

I’ve been on vacation, so naturally there are quite a few blog posts and news articles to wade through. Wow – the Internet sure has been busy with the slut-shaming this summer!  Some of my friends brought this to my attention, because as Christians and/or feminists, we notice shit like that.

I noticed other things, too. For one, it appears that I’ve been on the wrong path when it comes to raising my own son.

I get it – you’ve seen all those shameless hussies putting their pictures up on Facebook how our culture exploits women’s bodies, right? I can’t help thinking that maybe I’ve failed by trying to raise a son who respects women regardless of how they’re dressed.  Clearly, I should have been protecting his eyes.  I should remedy that.

So, here’s the bit that I think is important for you to realize.  If you are the parent of a teenage son, you should definitely make sure he never, ever sees a half-dressed girl.  Half-dressed boys are okay, though, because naturally, none of your sons are gay or bisexual.  Posting half-naked pictures of your own sons flexing on the beach is also totally fine, since no one ever equates strength and virility.  We all know that unless we see a penis, it’s not sexual anyway.  Besides, it’s not at all exploitative to parade their bodies on the Internet for your own gain; everyone knows that’s much better than making one’s own choices about what to post.

Please understand this also: you are not responsible for making sure your sons know that regardless of what a girl is wearing, she deserves respect.  All you need to do is assure they don’t see those pictures.  After all, if they don’t see them, then you can relax in the knowledge that your sons do not know what girls’ bodies look like or that they won’t satisfy their curiosity by looking at the Internet at a friend’s house.

Not to mention that those “sexy” selfies your sons’ friends are posting don’t reflect who they are clearly demonstrate that they are temptresses who want to cause your sons to fall into sin.  You need to be sure to remind them often so that you can keep your sons from acting like animals protect your sons.

And now – thank God – you have a good excuse to select who your sons are friends with. You can also have awkward family dinners during which you remind them that masturbation is a sin teenage girls are sluts they should probably not see a female-bodied person in her nightgown until they are married.

I know you’re concerned that these girls’ parents would be disappointed if they knew their daughters were causing your poor, defenseless sons to get hard think impure things when looking at them on the Internet. Obviously, you know that once a boy sees a girl in a state of undress, he turns from a respectable, nice kid into a raging, hormonal beast.  You don’t want your sons to only think of girls in this “sexual” way, do you?

Of course not.

You’re also probably aware that girls don’t fantasize about boys’ bodies, so you’re free to put as many objectifying pictures of them up on your blog as you like.  No worries–you won’t be causing any teenage girls to lust.  That’s because girls don’t really have any sexual feelings unless they are a)married or b)they weren’t properly guarding their hearts.  Naturally, they never masturbate or look at naked men on the Internet.  And they’re not ever lesbians, either.

Good thing you’ve resolved not to give any of these teen temptresses a second chance to corrupt your innocent little men. I’m sure you’ve also installed nanny software and have a firewall so good no one could ever hack it.  You’ve probably made sure that your sons’ friends have these things too.  Don’t forget that awkward conversation you had with all their dads to find out if any of them had a stray magazine or several that you needed to confiscate before you allowed your sons into their homes.

I know that sounds harsh and old-school, but that’s just the way needs to be if you want to raise your sons right.  Blocking, banning, and shaming is so much more effective than merely having open conversations about how your sons treat women.  Remind yourself that you are raising men, while their female counterparts are mere girls.  That way, you can convince yourself that your sons are mature enough to make adult decisions while these girls are not–and apparently don’t have any parents to help them learn and grow the way you’re helping your sons.  Their parents will probably be grateful that you implied their daughters are tramps anyway.

Meanwhile, you should have in mind the kind of women you want your sons to marry.  Your gag reflex probably prevents you from realizing that they may be gay, which is why you need to imagine them with women.  It’s not creepy and weird at all that you are making these plans for them when they’re only halfway through high school.  It’s never too early to control your children’s future adulthood.  Besides, there’s no chance whatsoever that your sons will go behind your backs and date or have sex or whatever.  And did I mention that these “men of integrity” are totally not ever, ever masturbating?  Oh, I did?  Well, I said it again.

Moms, it’s not too late! If you think you’ve made a mistake in raising your sons (we all do – don’t fret – I’ve made some doozies), RUN to your boys’ social media pages and block every single one of their girl friends.  There are pictures of them that make it easy for your sons to imagine them naked, including that lovely senior portrait.  After all, girls don’t even need to be in a state of partial undress to tempt boys to lust after them–all it takes is their mere existence.

Will you trust me? Your boys are crying out for you to teach them that girls are the cause of all their adolescent hormone surges as well as any other behaviors they may exhibit.  Deep down, they are uncontrollable cavemen who cannot possibly learn how to respect and love women unless you protect them from the grasps of those alluring young things.  (And also, they are NOT gay, so you probably don’t need to worry about protecting them from other boys.)

You are raising MEN.

Teach them guilt, sexism, and blame.

I’m glad could have this talk.  Maybe we’ll talk again sometime about how we can raise our girls into women who feel ashamed of their bodies.

Mrs. Mitchell

Training ground

Isabelle et Gaston d’Orléans avec leur fils Pierre d’Alcantara
Karl Ernst Papf [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I wasn’t going to post about this.  I’m long past the stage of parenting little ones, and I had in mind to write about something else today.  I couldn’t hold back, though, especially after seeing this over at Naked Pastor.  It’s an excellent visual representation of what I think of the lousy belief that small children are sinful and manipulative.

Remember the online battle some weeks ago over teaching our children that they are “deeply broken”?  This is just a continuation of the same mentality.  It’s all part of the unhealthy teaching that we are born sinful and that there is nothing good in us apart from what God puts there when we believe.  What a disgusting view of humanity!  The worst part is that it’s not even “biblical.”

Sure, one could find some justification from a particular unnuanced reading of the New Testament.  It’s not what it says, though.  When God made people, God called us good–just like everything else God created.  The view that we are born bad and are in need of constant reminder is a gross misrepresentation of God’s view of us.

A huge part of why this angers me so much is that I have kids who don’t always behave in predictable ways.  I want to be as far from any of those teachings as possible.  Recently, I had a run-in with someone who tried to explain away my daughter’s behavior as being caused by being homeschooled–she apparently hasn’t been in enough social situations or hasn’t had to “discipline” herself to behave properly.  It was all I could do not to just let the woman have it.

It turned out that the problem was that something she was doing in a group setting at the beginning of the day was triggering her sensory issues.

I can’t imagine how it would have gone if I’d listened and decided this was a matter of needing to dig out her underlying “sin.”  Instead, I removed her from the activity in which she wasn’t participating and spent a good twenty minutes processing with her why she was struggling.  I was reminded that it’s these very situations that have pushed me to continue homeschooling her; I have no idea how she would manage all her sensory needs for a six hour day in a classroom.

Not all very young children have the same struggles as my children.  They do, however, have one thing in common:  They aren’t old enough to know how to handle situations like adults.  They may not be old enough to speak the words about their frustrations.  They certainly aren’t old enough to think through and identify what bothers them.  That’s why they need us–not to help them learn about their “sin” but to help them learn as they grow how to manage and express their feelings in healthy ways.  That means that they require the freedom to express themselves without being afraid of their own emotions or of adults’ reactions to their emotions.

Don’t misunderstand me–it’s not necessarily the method of parenting or disciplining that’s bad.  I’ve seen very loving parents do things vastly differently.  It’s the underlying motivation that isn’t right.  If you begin parenting with the basic assumption that your children were “born bad” or are “deeply broken” or have underlying “sin” causing their behavior; if you believe that babies learn to “manipulate” their parents by crying; if you think the healthiest thing you can do for your children is to break their wills or bend them to yours, then you are sorely mistaken about the aims of parenthood.

The goal of raising children isn’t to weed out all their sins so that they grow up to be mistake-free adults.  That assumes there’s such a thing as perfect people and that through parenting we can create them.  That’s a lie, and a damaging one at that.  By trying to shape children into perfect beings, we teach them that there is a state of sinlessness that they can achieve while simultaneously promoting the idea that they will never, ever reach that goal.  That’s a recipe for a lot of shame and guilt.

As I type this, my children are collecting their belongings for a trip out of town.  I know I can trust them to pack what they need not because I’ve taught them not to “sin” by disobeying my directions but because they are experienced travelers who have learned over time how to pack.  Most of the skills they have come from watching their dad and me, from talking it through, and from making their own mistakes and learning.  That doesn’t just apply to filling a suitcase; it’s in other things, too.

Do we get frustrated with them?  Of course.  I don’t always handle my anger very well, and I make all sorts of other mistakes as a parent.  I’m learning how to be a mom just like my kids are learning how to navigate their world.  What’s important is that we’re doing it together, without the layers of shame attached to their behavior.

I’m off for vacation tomorrow, and I’ll be gone for a week of unplugged bliss.  I’ll catch you all after the new school year starts!

Notable News: Week of May 25-31, 2013

It’s a gorgeous, hot, sunny day here where I am. Today, my 9-year-old takes part in his first big competition.  He’s going with his jazz band to a school about an hour away where they will compete against middle and high schoolers (his is the only elementary band, so they’re in the middle school category).  Best of luck, kiddo!

While I pass the hours until my daughter and I drive out to watch him, I’m rounding up some of my favorite links for the week.

1. When modesty policing happens

Modesty culture: the gift that keeps giving.  Or, in this case, that keeps pitting us against one another as we struggle to define terms and create safer space for women.  I will admit to going into my reading of this piece on Rage Against the Minivan knowing that many of the writers I respect disliked it.  I was surprised to find that I actually agreed with quite a lot of it, but there were niggling doubts in my mind.  The responses to it confirmed that it wasn’t my imagination.  Several people have expressed their concerns far better than I could.  Here’s a list of the best ones:

2. When “ask Rachel Held Evans” happens

For those who haven’t been following her, she has a regular “Ask a…” series.  This time, she’s left it open for us to ask her.  Go take a look and post your questions.

3. When kindness happens

I haven’t been following the story, but apparently others have.  Over on Hännah’s blog she’s been tracking the story of her friend’s escape from a controlling, abusive, fundamentalist environment.  She had requested donations to help Jennifer, and the response was overwhelming.  I hope you have a few minutes to read the original posts and the update.  It’s pretty inspiring.

4. When affirmation happens

I happen to attend a welcoming/affirming church.  Sometimes, that’s what’s needed.  I challenge you to make it through this post from Registered Runaway without feeling moved.

5. When fatherhood happens

This is a fantastic post about why it’s a terrible idea to label women the “natural nurturers.”  When our son was born, I remember one of the women at the church we attended telling me that she hated when people referred to dads as “babysitting” their children.  Although I would not have thought to use that phrase myself, I had never given it much consideration.  After nearly 10 years of parenting together, I can confirm the truth in that.  My husband is, in fact, much more naturally nurturing than I am.  And he most definitely does not “babysit” our kids–he parents them.

6. When “things that should never be combined” happens

You get something like this.  (Warning: Contains Christianese and reference to Christian porn.  Not explicit, but read it after any minors are in bed.  Also, I shouldn’t have to say this, but it’s not real.)

7. When fiction happens

If you haven’t been reading the series “On the Night Bus” over at Rubies and Duels, go do so right now.

You can also read my own latest fiction, The Smokin’ Hot Wives Club.

That’s it for this week.  I hope you all have a great weekend.  I’m going to spend mine watching my kids perform in their first recital at this dance studio.  I’ll be back on Monday with my usual Fifty Shades post.  Catch you all later!

Parenting Pride: What’s in Our Hearts?

Last night, I read this blog post about bragging.  I should start out by saying that I really like Glennon, the author of this blog.  But I strongly disagree with her thoughts on this one topic.

This quote sums up Glennon’s position on parents talking about their kids’ accomplishments:

. . . Craig and I have a steadfast rule – no bragging to anyone except each other or the grandparents. We used to allow ourselves to brag to our sisters, but now that they have kids, they’re off limits too.

Basically, our rule means that we keep our mouths shut in public and then we talk in bed about how our kids are better than anyone else’s kids in the whole entire world.

Glennon states her reasons for this as being twofold: Separating unconditional love from pride in accomplishment; respect for other parents.  These are noble intentions, but I don’t agree that this is the only way to handle those things.

First, she’s absolutely right that pride and love can end up confused.  However, our children still need to hear words of praise.  I grew up with very little of that.  I knew my parents loved me, but I never knew if they thought I was doing a good job.  When I came home from college my second semester, having scored excellent grades, my father told me that I had done better than he had his first year of college—but that his major was harder than mine.  It was a slap in the face; I had worked hard and achieved something I was proud of, but I still couldn’t expect so much as a “Well done!” and have it left at that.  When my father tells me that he is “proud” of me now, I have a hard time believing it.  He lives hundreds of miles away, has never met my daughter, and in fact has no idea whatsoever what I’m doing these days.

Expressing pride in our kids’ accomplishments can be taken too far, and they may learn to associate love with pride.  But a well-placed compliment about the hard work we’ve seen them do can be significant.  When our kids have poured themselves into something, heart and soul, we have no problem telling them we’re proud of them.  When they’ve succeeded at a task, we honor that.  We also make sure that we tell them, every day in multiple ways, that we love them.  We show them, we say, “I love you,” we deliver affection.  I don’t think that congratulating them on their report cards or dance performances is going to cause them to think we only love them when they do something big.

Second, I have no problem with friends who “brag” about their kids on Facebook and Twitter.  I personally don’t put anything up about report cards, but I have no problem with friends who do.  I love hearing about the things my friends’ kids are doing.  I watch the videos of the piano recitals, I check out the photos from the dance recitals, I hit “like” when a friend’s kid wins the Pinewood Derby.  I’m secure in my parenting and I’m proud of the things my kids do, which allows me to celebrate other people’s kids.  Sure, I’ve seen parents who don’t handle this very well.  There is no question that insecurity often leads to parents who make sure everyone knows their kids are better than everyone else.  We’ve all seen the parent who asks for “advice” about their “genius” toddler or the person who never puts anything on Facebook except a lot of pictures of their kids’ awards.  But those people are rare, and I remind myself that they probably do these things out of a fear that their kids might not be as good as everyone else’s.

Third, I disagree with Glennon’s perspective that we need to refrain from talking about our kids’ accomplishments out of respect for others.  She probably doesn’t mean it this way, but when she says,

And every time I see someone post about their child’s seven goals, I think about my mama friends at home, struggling with their children who have Lyme, or PANDAS, or cerebral palsy, whose kids have a hard time making it up the stairs much less up and down a soccer field.

there is an implication that parents whose kids have Lyme or PANDAS or cerebral palsy have kids who don’t accomplish anything.  This idea that somehow one kid being good at soccer takes away from another who isn’t is not only nonsense but hurtful nonsense.  I have many friends with special needs kids.  Believe me, there is a lot to celebrate, honor, and be proud of.  And what about families with one child who is physically and academically capable and one who isn’t?  Should those parents refuse to congratulate their child on her accomplishments because her sister might “feel bad”?

I’m sure she didn’t mean to be, but that last bit was self-righteous.  Implied in those words was the idea that she, and only she, understands how hard it is for parents with kids who have special needs or learning disabilities.  She isn’t looking at it from the perspective of a parent who is actually in that situation.  I have a child with ADHD.  It may not be physically debilitating, but it’s not easy to manage.  Do I wish that he could be like every other kid?  Sure, sometimes.  Will it keep him from doing some of the things other parents brag about?  Yes, definitely.  But I wouldn’t change a thing, and I would never tell another mom that she shouldn’t tell the world about her kid because mine is struggling.

I think this boils down to a basic personality difference.  Glennon’s life experiences are her own, and my life experiences are my own. She is free to do as she likes.  My suggestion would be that if she is bothered by reading parent brags, she should consider not reading them.  I hope my friends don’t stop telling me about what their kids are doing, because I’m still listening.

As for what we say when we talk about our kids, we should think carefully about what’s in our hearts.  If we’re putting up a Facebook update about something our kids do, it should not be in order to boost our own egos or to cut down others.  We should imagine how it will sound to others.  Does it sound like we’re saying our kids are better than everyone else?  Are we disguising bragging through asking for “advice”?  Have we made it sound as though we’re merely relieved our kids aren’t turning out to be delinquents?  What’s in our hearts when we share is just as important as what’s in our hearts when we tell our kids we’re proud of them.  Other people should know how much we love our kids and that our love isn’t dependent on grades, awards, and goals scored.

Motherhood: A Visual

Saw this on some friends’ Facebook pages:

Let’s break this down by picture, shall we?

1. My friends who don’t have kids sometimes don’t understand why I want to stay home.  But they have never, ever imagined that my home is a war zone.  They know me and they know my kids.

2. My mother is no longer living.  However, I am sure she would not have imagined me as a June Cleaver wannabe.  She was a stay-at-home mom herself, so I’m sure she knows the realities.  My mother-in-law, who is around the age my mother would have been, was not a stay-at-home mom.  As far as I know, she doesn’t imagine me enjoying housework.  Or wearing that to do it in.

3. I can guarantee with 100% certainty that my husband does not believe I watch television all day.  I’m glad I married him.

4. What, exactly, does being a stay-at-home mom have to do with co-sleeping?  I know plenty of families, with all sorts of work/stay home configurations, in which co-sleeping was part of parenting.  I doubt that “society” associates the two.  Also, those kids look pretty happy to me.  If society thinks that staying home with the kids is one way to create a loving, happy family, then I’m not complaining.

5. I have no delusions of grandeur.

6. Aaaaand…nope.  My days are, and always have been, a lot more boring than that.  My eight-year-old multitasks better than I do.  Huh, I guess according to that, he’s going to make one heck of a stay-at-home mom.

Sticks and Stones

Yesterday, I was peacefully sitting in Dunkin Donuts, sipping my coffee and doing some writing  (working on yesterday’s blog post and fooling around with some character development for a short story) while waiting for my daughter’s dance class to finish.  I had the misfortune of having my quiet morning interrupted by two men discussing their political views.

I use the term “discussing” loosely.  It was closer to one of the men exploding, while the other sat silently (except for the incessant ringing of his phone).  I was mostly able to tune it out, until the one man said, loud enough for all of Dunkin Donuts to hear, “Anyone they put up has a chance to finally get that a**hole out of there.”  Having heard the rest of the conversation, I was already aware that the “a**hole” to whom he was referring was President Obama.  He followed by offering his opinions on the best candidates, emphasizing that the few women he mentioned were, in some way, either too stupid or too weak for the job.

I found myself, besides just feeling irritated that I had to be in earshot of the conversation, upset by the tone.  It’s true, I don’t always agree with whatever those in government say or do.  But to resort to name-calling?  That doesn’t help anyone.

When we resort to name-calling, we reduce people to no more than the things about them we dislike.  We separate ourselves from them by reminding ourselves that we are not those things.  It makes it easier to fuel hate and anger when we are able to think about someone else as less.  Not only that, we justify ourselves.  We tell ourselves that it’s okay to call someone an a**hole if he’s acting like one (or, at least, what we think one acts like).  And let’s be clear on this, Christians are no better about this than anyone else.  Sometimes, we’re worse.

It’s no wonder that our children call each other names at school.  It’s no wonder that our youth are depressed enough to commit violent acts against themselves and others.  When we, the adults, cannot set a better example, then what hope have we?  We can institute anti-bullying rules, campaign against name-calling, and even blame the victims.  None of it does any good if our children are hearing us dehumanize others.

One thing we need to keep in mind is that no matter a person’s behavior, he or she is still a person.  That carries with it the necessary understanding that even “a**holes” are created in the image of G-d and loved by the G-d who became flesh and died for us.  We can still dislike things a person does; but we must separate that from who the person is and teach our children to do the same.


I’m not exactly sure why this was on my mind today.  Maybe it’s because our state just legalized same-sex marriage, and I’m considering the future that my kids’ generation has ahead.  Maybe it’s the venom with which I’ve heard people talking about it and the push to attend protests.  I don’t know.  Whatever it is, I began thinking about the way in which people like to categorize, stereotype, and affix blame when it comes to homosexuality.

Let’s fast-forward and imagine we’ve woken up with my kids being teenagers.  If you (and by “you,” I don’t mean all of my friends; but you know who you are) found out that my daughter was a lesbian, you might have a lot of reactions to that.  You might feel sorry for me.  You might say “tsk” and shake your head at my wayward daughter.  You might try to reassure me that it’s just a phase, or that girls sometimes like to “experiment” and that she’ll out grow it.  You might offer to pray for me.

The one thing you wouldn’t do is blame me.

In part, that’s because my daughter isn’t a “gay stereotype.”  She is hardly the tomboy, aggressive, unfeminine kind of girl people might imagine when they think of lesbians.  My daughter is a girlie girl.  She is bubbly and feminine (although she is outspoken).  Almost all of her toys can be found in the “girls” section of Toys R Us.  Even when she wears her brother’s outgrown clothes, she has to decorate them with something pink or purple.  She would rather wear dresses than pants (which is a source of annoyance int the winter, as she hates tights).  Although she’s not interested in dolls, she loves to be mommy to her stuffed animal friends and dress them up in doll clothes.  Because of preconceived notions about gender and sex, it would probably come as  big surprise if she came out.

I wouldn’t be so lucky if it were my son.

How do I know this?  Because it’s a message I’ve heard over and over.  Because my son doesn’t fit the socially accepted norms for “real” male behavior.  Because my husband and I have allowed or even encouraged him to participate in activities that some people think are not appropriate.

Time and again I’ve had to listen to people say that if a boy grows up and “turns gay,” it’s because his parents got something wrong.  Most often, it’s that he’s a mommy’s boy with a “helicopter” or overbearing mother and an absentee or abusive father.  When that reason doesn’t fit, then it becomes about the parents failing to push their son toward appropriately manly activities, such as sports, cars, tools, and Star Wars.  Not to mention the horrors of letting him play with a doll!

I read a line in a book the other day, something about a kid “dancing to music of his own soundtrack” (I don’t have it exactly right, but that’s the gist).  That describes my kid.  He is the kind of boy who likes what he likes and cares very little if other boys (or girls, even) agree.  J is the kind of boy who likes to paint his toenails red and spike his hair with blue gel; write for hours in his notebook; build pretend roller coasters out of Hot Wheels track; draw comics about the Adventures of Soy Bean; play Polly Pockets with his sister and her friends; and yes, dance to his own soundtrack.  He isn’t into sports, doesn’t much like play fighting, and cares very little for Star Wars.  And no, not one of those things about him is an indication that he will someday be gay.

Yet if he were, there are plenty of people who would point right back to his childhood and accuse us of being responsible on account of our parenting.

We allow our daughter to be exactly who she is.  If it were up to me, I would push her to play soccer and make her wear pants all winter.  I simply don’t get the whole dress thing, since I would rather wear almost anything else.  In the same way, we are allowing our son to express himself.  We don’t force him to take dance, he enjoys it, is good at it, and asks every year to continue.  How is that any different from what we do with our daughter?

All I want is for my kids to grow up to be who they were meant to be, without the intrusion of unwelcome gender norming.

Mother’s Day

In the several years I’ve been a mom, I can’t remember a Mother’s Day I enjoyed more.  We spent the day together as a family.  First, we went to church.  J was selected to participate in a special Mother’s Day presentation on stage.  He had a large sign that said “I love my mom because…” on one side and his answer on the other.  His was long enough they had to pare it down.  His original answer was (he wrote this himself), “Mom is caring because she gets me what foods I want with my lunch.  Mom is helpful with chores like our dish chore and the laundry.  Sometimes Mom is strict with me, S, even Dad sometimes.  I love Mom all the way to Pluto and back to Earth!”

There’s a playground at church, so afterward we spent time with friends.  My husband and kids took me out for lunch.  The kids bought me gifts from the dollar store and got a couple treats themselves.  We went to the zoo and the park to feed the ducks, followed by another trip to the playground.  We made a nice dinner and enjoyed some family time around the tv.  Not our usual dinner routine, but very relaxing.  We capped off the day with family games and stories.

Many of my mom friends prefer to spend Mother’s Day being waited on by their husbands and children, or off doing something alone.  If that’s what relaxes you, then by all means, enjoy.  But that isn’t for me.  I want to spend these precious days with the kids.  Someday, they won’t be content with dollar store prizes and trips to the zoo.  They won’t want to spend the afternoon on the playground with mom and dad.  They may not relish the idea of family game night or reading together.  Instead, they will want cool clothes and gadgets and trips to the mall.  They’ll want to spend the day with their friends.  They will want to go to parties or they’ll need to study for school.  And one day, they won’t even be home at all.  So I’m going to cherish my time with my kids when we can be together as a family, before these magical days slip by.

Happy Mother’s Day.