Deep Thoughts with My Kids

I’m stalling today. I desperately want to do a dozen things, all of which are distractions from the novel I’m supposed to be working on. I’ve also charged myself with writing a blog post a week that isn’t WIPpet Wednesday or a ROW80 check-in, so at least this particular distraction is legitimate.

I played around with several topics, including throwing in my two cents on the whole Mark Driscoll fiasco that exploded this week. (I’m rejecting that one on the grounds that I have no real dog in that fight and there are much, much better people to listen to on that subject. Here and here are two of my favorites, if you care to find out what I’m talking about.)

I mentioned needing to write a post to a friend in an exchange that went like this:

Me: I need to do a blog post some time. But I need a topic first. LOL!

She: Why open conversations with children are necessary to the betterment of their lives and yours.

I did chuckle a little at that because yesterday, I had one such conversation with my kids over lunch. I had just come back from J’s appointment with his ADHD doctor. At the appointment, I mentioned that the bullying J experienced at school was largely of the “you’re not boy enough” variety. What was sad to me was how unsurprised his doctor was, although I was pleased when he said, “That should bother us on so many levels.”

When we returned home, J brought it up again, and he, S, and I started talking about what makes a person a girl or a boy. It’s interesting to me that people feel we can’t talk to kids about gender identity because they’re “too young to understand.” Let me assure you that my kids have a very good idea about gender identity, and talking with them was not difficult.

We talked about a lot of things, including how girls can often get away with being “tomboys” and wearing their brothers’ clothes but it doesn’t go the other way. I suggested that needs to change, and both kids said, “Yeah! That’s not fair!” We continued talking about the full range of identity and expression, and at no point did either of them act confused or upset.

Throughout the conversation, they were at the helm. I did very little other than answer questions and let them say what they wanted. Interestingly, both of them said they truly feel—inside and out—like a boy and like a girl, respectively. But apparently they already know kids who don’t feel the same.

This is why we need to talk about it. I am one hundred percent happy to talk with my own kids, to reassure them that whoever they are, they are loved by their dad and me. They are free to express themselves any way they choose. But that’s not the only reason to open that conversation. Surely over time, they will have friends who defy what society says is acceptable—not just gender or sexuality but many other things that are part of a person as a whole.

When that happens, I want my kids to be the sort of people who are loving, open, and understanding with all people. I want them to be able to tell their friends that if they don’t feel accepted in other places, they are always welcome in our house. Here, they will find people who don’t merely “tolerate” or even “accept” them but who actively take an interest and care about them.

Having these conversations with our children is absolutely not just about us or our kids. It’s about making a better world for everyone.


She may call you up tonight

By Mike DelGaudio (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Time for a cute story about my ten-year-old.  For those of you who know him in person, this probably won’t come as much of a shock.

Yesterday, as usual on days when he has band, I picked him up from school.  Once we were in the car and buckled, just as I was starting the engine, he said, “I have a Post-It note.”

“Oh?” I inquired.  He often has Post-Its; I wasn’t terribly interested.

“Yeah.  And guess what’s on it?”

At that point, I was a little wary.  I wondered if it was something from his teacher.  “Um.  I don’t know.  What’s on it?”

“Sydney’s phone number!” he announced proudly.

“And who is Sydney?”

“A girl in my class.  She likes me.”

This is the fourth girl’s phone number that he’s gotten since last spring.  He has exactly one boy’s phone number, and the only reason he has it is that the boy’s mom gave it to me.

I’m going to blame my son’s former dance teachers for this, mostly because they’re not here to defend themselves and also because they don’t read this blog anyway.  They are all responsible for teaching my kid how to treat women and girls, especially ones he likes.  Didn’t they know that girls appreciate boys who know how to show respect and like them for who they are?  I mean, sheesh.

As cute as this story is, it makes me a little sad, too.  Oh, not because my precious boo-bear is growing up.  I’m really enjoying watching both my kids blossom.  No, it makes me sad because I know that if it were my daughter collecting boys’ numbers (or my son collecting phone numbers of boys saying they liked him, for that matter) very few people would see it as cute or sweet.  (On a side note, no one would bat an eye at this age if my daughter had a handful of girls’ numbers–that’s culturally expected, and most people would say it didn’t mean anything.)

Funny thing is, I have a few friends whose daughters have magnetic personalities and who like to hang out with boys.  I (and most of their parents) do, in fact, think it’s cute.  But there’s still that little nagging thought that it’s not something to share in public because people may judge those girls or their parents.  After all, those are the girls who, in a few years, are going to be posting braless selfies, right?

I don’t really care whether my kids prefer to hang out with boys or girls.  What I care about is having them respect themselves and others.  I see these opposite-sex friendships as having several benefits.  What better way for the kids to learn about each other and themselves?  They’re finding out what they like.

My first question to my son after he said this girl likes him was, “What do you like about her?”

“Well,” he said, “she’s writing this really cool story.”

“Ah, so she likes to write.  That’s something you enjoy, too.”

“Yeah!  Maybe we’ll write something together.”

“You know what?  That sounds like a great idea.  I’m glad you have a friend like Sydney.”

“Me too, Mom.”


Pop Rocks! (But no Coke)

We try to be careful about how much time our kids spend in front of a screen, so we’ve banned any form of television or video games before the bus comes.  This morning, J made an appeal.  He needed his computer for his project.  Apparently, he is planning to release his original CD (to the limited audience of, well, us), and he needed to record the first track.  Naturally, I relented.

The CD, entitled Extreme Moves, will feature the following songs:

Pop Rocks
Sweet Rock
Techno Dog
Juice Rap
X-Electro Cheese

I’ve already had a preview of Pop Rocks and Techno Dog.  I can’t wait to hear X-Electro Cheese.

Parents, let this be a warning to you: This is what happens when you won’t let your kid play the Wii before school.

Robbing G-d

I haven’t written much about my kids lately, so I figure this is as good a time as any. Besides, I’m much too tired at the moment to come up with a witty or piquant article on anything else.

The other day, we were all sitting at the breakfast table. I think this may have been the first time in a while. I’m not much of a morning person, which means that I’m only just barely functional most mornings when my husband is getting ready for work. The kids like to get up early, but not as early as their dad (most of the time), and J doesn’t have to be at the bus stop until 8:45. But for whatever reason, we were all up early enough to enjoy breakfast together.

My husband had his phone out and was checking out a couple of blog posts that had come up in the previous few days. One of them was this gem of a cartoon from Naked Pastor:

Since my husband and I mostly have the same friends on social sites but radically different taste in blogs, we don’t usually share with each other. But my husband really enjoyed that particular cartoon. He leaned across the table to show me. Naturally, the kids were curious and wanted to see it. Seeing no harm, my husband showed them.

As one might expect, they didn’t exactly get it, at least not the way it was intended. My husband, always the teacher, asked what they thought it meant. J said he thought the driver of the car was selfish. But it was S’s reply that struck me. She said, “That man is a robber.”

I believe she thought maybe he had robbed a bank and was in trouble, but I heard layers in her words. I thought about what it meant to be a robber, and how it doesn’t just mean actively holding up a convenience store. We can rob G-d in hundreds of ways. We can withhold our money, certainly, as in the cartoon. But we can also withhold our time and our other resources.

I don’t just mean that we don’t spend enough time praying and reading the Bible. I suppose that’s likely to be true, but prayer and Bible reading are emphasized enough at church. I mean that we fail to give our time making a difference. We talk a lot about how we can do small things that take little time, like donating supplies or even writing a check to support a missionary. And those are great things to do. But we limit ourselves when that’s all we expect. I don’t doubt the impact of little things, but the little things should be just the beginning.

My hope is that my kids can grow into the kind of people who give of themselves beyond money, beyond the small stuff. Of course I hope they make a difference with the small things, but I also hope that those tiny impacts lead to a desire to do more. Not out of a sense of obligation, or a belief that they are earning brownie points in heaven (or even heavenly treasure). It should be born out of love for G-d, love for other people, and a desire to see G-d’s will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.

Darn. I guess I couldn’t just stick to a cute story about the kids after all.

A Letter to Santa

I realize that it is pretty early to be thinking about Christmas.  I’ve been trying to reserve holiday preparations for after Thanksgiving.  We haven’t put up our tree yet, for example.  But in the mind of young children, it is never too early to start thinking about Christmas.

We have some books that were given to us by another homeschooling family with older children.  Among the stash, my 5-year-old found a book of Christmas cut-outs with a page at the back for writing a letter to Santa.  My son is just learning how to write and was very excited by this development.  He sat down and got right to work.  When I finished my morning chores, I checked in on him.  He was just adding the finishing touches.  I asked if he’d like to read it to me.

He read, “Dear Santa, I love you.  Love,” and he had signed his name.  I have to admit, I was surprised.  I assumed he would write a letter about what he wanted for Christmas, like most kids.  I asked him, “What do you love about Santa?”  He replied, “I love that he eats the cookies we put out!”

Not to be outdone, my 3-year-old piped up, “I wrote a letter, too!”  She showed me a paper with her scribbles on it and told me it said, “Dear Jesus, thank you for Santa.  Amen.”

Their beautiful innocence is so precious to me.  That sweetness will carry me through all the rush and bustle of the season, reminding me to take the time to consider what’s really important.

I have the script memorized!

I’m beginning to understand just why we need to be careful what we say around our children.

My kids have this amazing ability to remember, with frighteningly accurate detail, every scene from their precious movies.  Today, while waiting for the kids at dance class, I was chatting with my friend.  She and I share the driving, as our children have class together but the classes don’t start at the same time.  I drive the big kids early, and she arrives later with our little ones.  She told me that my daughter provided the entire script of an episode of “The Magic School Bus” in the car.  Apparently, she was explaining how digestion works.

Now, why doesn’t this amazing memory apply to other things?  Say, putting dirty laundry in the wash bin, or washing up before dinner, or not hitting each other on the head with plastic sticks?

When You Grow Up

The other day, my 5-year-old was playing on the playground.  All of a sudden, he came to me and said, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a teacher, just like Daddy.”  I asked him what kind of teacher he wanted to be.  He said, “A science teacher.”  We’ve been joking with him that he’s going to be an electrical engineer because he’s so fascinated with how things work, in particular anything having to do with power or electricity.  But this was the first time he actually had an idea himself about his future.

A couple of nights later, he couldn’t sleep and his dad was at a late meeting.  So my son and I put on “Dancing with the Stars.”  I thought he’d be kind of bored (the idea was to bore him to sleep).  But since he himself is a dancer, he was actually interested.  I asked if he thought he’d like to do those dances someday.  He said, “Yes.  When I grow up, I’m going to be an electrical engineer and a science teacher and a dancer.”  I’m glad that for him, the sky is still the limit.