They Never Really Change Do They?

DanGriffSurf13The other night there was an epic meltdown over the mere suggestion that my youngest might try a music camp this summer or fall. The Husband is convinced we must push him to do something and he will push sports if I don’t intervene. It’s not because The Husband is pushy. It’s just sport is the no-brainer. Sports is what we know and what our other kids do and this kid would probably be good at whatever sport we pushed. However, sports is not his thing and as a youngest child who played sports because everyone else played sports before me but I probably would have loved just being in the chorus of any school’s production instead, I’m extra sensitive to this kid being signed up for soccer against his will.

Thus the conversation about music camp, or electronic camp or inventor camp or any damn thing he wants camp. All this camp talk led to massive tears and screaming that might have alerted our neighbors to call protective services if they were so inclined.

In the middle of the meltdown I had an a-ha moment and shared it with the boy. “This thing you’re feeling”, I said, like the sage that I am, “this things that’s got you all wound up like bugs are crawling all in your heart and through your lungs” (we’ve clearly had this conversation before) “this thing is fear”.

He responded with silence and wide eyes so I jumped on the chance to explain.

This led to a family conversation about how we’re all afraid of new things and things we don’t really understand, even mom, mostly mom. We can choose to give in to it and never try anything but then we’ll be old and angry because everyone else is off doing cool stuff and we’re stuck in a rut. Or, we can fight it and try new things and then use those “Trys” to decide what we really like and what we can leave to someone else. All three kids joined in the conversation and it seemed to pacify all of us.

Someone's trying to find his stripes.

Someone’s trying to find his stripes.

Later, when I walked the dog,  the real a-ha came.

This boy is exactly the way he was as an infant and so are the other two. You know how you’re supposed to teach babies to self soothe in order to help them gain a bit of indepenence (and allow you some much-needed sleep)? Well, with each kid that self-soothing pattern has almost exactly translated to the way they act today.

The Girl loved a wind down period and was content sucking a pacifier and looking around until she got naturally drowsy. But, if she woke up in the middle of the night, she cried and cried until someone came in and gave her back her pacifier and then she fell right back asleep. She knew what she needed. She just sometimes forgot how to get it. Now, she still knows just what she needs, but sometimes she loses her place and wants someone to step in and point her back in the direction she’s always known she wanted to go.

The Middle One, he’s been in charge of his own self since minute one on Earth. He dove for his crib and feel asleep with his arms behind his head and his ankles crossed like he was lying on the beach. It was always his decision to sleep, eat, play and the only thing that got him riled up is if he couldn’t figure out the problem and might (God forbid) have to ask for help. Today, as long as he believes he is either in control, or his feelings have been appropriately heard and noted, he’s easy as pie. If you cross him or if he gets frustrated about not being able to do something on his own, the wrath is like nothing you’d ever imagine could come out of such a sweet faced boy.

The Baby? Well, the baby didn’t sleep for two years and quite honestly the only time I could guarantee he wouldn’t cry was if I had him wrapped up against me in the tightest carrier made for babies for years passed the expiration date of those carriers. It was as if he didn’t trust his own thoughts enough to even try to self-soothe. If he couldn’t do what his older siblings were doing exactly the way they were doing it, he didn’t even want to try. Can’t walk? I’ll make mom carry me so I’m not looking up at people. Sleep behind bars? Nope, I’ll cry ’till they bring me into a bed. Scared, nervous, anxious, tired? I’ll get mom to help. Today, he still climbs up in my lap to be soothed. He still gets most upset when he’s asked to decide who he is. “What do you like to do?”  at dinner that night was perhaps the scariest thing he’s ever been asked.

He doesn’t know and that is almost as terrifying as what he must do to find out.

Being the youngest is tough. Being the youngest of a bunch of achievers is even more tough. As his mom, I want nothing more than for him to not only figure out who he is, but learn that he is smart enough, capable enough and can trust himself enough to choose whatever is right for him, even if it doesn’t look like anyone else.

As a  mom who is the youngest, I’m committed to making this so for my baby because I know how great if feels to figure out who you are and feel good about it. Even if it isn’t like anyone else you know.

Reinventing “Marble Jars” to tackle summer chores

Every summer, despite my desire to do absolutely nothing, it’s inevitable a few days in that we have to regroup to add some structure in to save us all. This year, I at least knew to anticipate it. I decided to take our beloved “marble jar” system and turn it in to a chore tracker. See what our plan is in the video and then please comment with any genius plans you have for chores and allowance down below. We need all the help we can get!

Raising Kids in a Rape Culture

Photo: Microsoft Office

Lessons Aren’t Just for School

I have been contemplating writing about this for weeks. So much has hit me recently regarding women and men and rape I haven’t been able to settle my mind enough to communicate coherently.

I work with high school kids who recently went through prom season and there is nothing I wanted more than to protect them from the perils of prom, where sex, drugs and booze often provide a lethal combination. These kids will leave for college and I wanted to warn them about the increased danger there. I know. I’ve seen it.

The final straw was when George Will crossed a line I wasn’t even sure he could cross and made so many horrible statements I can’t and won’t even begin to address them here.

What Will’s “Women are willing victims” column did  was start a million conversations  about what is happening to our women and men in this country and this got me thinking of my role as a parent of both young men and a young woman. I read one of the articles spawned by Will’s column about a woman who was raped at Yale and never said a word. Amanda Ruggeri and a friend were handed a shot at a party that contained some sort of drug that all but knocked her out. Later that night, after her friends carried her home, the young man Ruggeri was with had sex with her. In the article, she says she has no recollection of any of it but she woke up naked in his room. Later her friend confirmed that Ruggeri did indeed have sex with the young man in question.

George Will would say she wasn’t raped. George Will would probably criticize her for speaking out because the young man in question did not supply the drug, therefore his life shouldn’t be ruined for having sex with her. George Will is a lot of things I am too polite to say here, but he has hit on something so powerful it is frightening to me. What is frightening to me that I understood, for a minute, where Will might come from. Because, my first reaction, when reading this article was, oh, man that boy didn’t even give her the drugs, but if she accused him of rape he would be a labeled a rapist. I could understand why Ruggeri didn’t speak up. I can even understand why she tried to justify the boy’s actions and downplay the event in her own mind.  It had nothing to do with victim shaming and everything to do with not wanting to be a victim.

After some more thought (I told you I’ve been on this for weeks) I realized, that boy was a rapist and what the hell would I do if that was my son.

See, I talk to my girl about how to behave. I talk to my girl about modesty and protecting her body and being in control. I tell her not to be afraid to tell people when she is uncomfortable and never question that feeling she has in her gut when something isn’t right. That feeling is always right so, just get away and stick up for yourself, no matter who or what you are standing against. While I would not change what I’ve said,  I realize it may be setting her up to think this is entirely her responsibility. As if the boys are free to act like horny jerks and it is up to her to stop them.

With my boys, I talk to them (firmly) about how when someone says stop, they must stop instantly. Don’t get me wrong, my house is not full of inappropriate touching, but there are times during most days where tickling, wrestling and general roughhousing is going on and  someone always says stop. In those moments,  I am quick to jump in and make sure the other party does.
I hoped this meant my kids would catch the lesson that you can’t touch someone in a way they don’t want to be touched, ever. Even if you are mid-playing and the person you’re with, for seemingly no reason, decides they have had enough, you have to respect that. Yes, it’s a noble lesson, but what if it isn’t explicit enough?

What if, like the college boy in the article, or maybe even George Will, my boys need to be taught, explicitly,  that having sex with a person in any situation where they have not consented is rape? Even when it is with a person who is too unconscious to consent or refute you, it is rape. Period.
What if they need to hear, explicitly,  that sex is only ok if both people are willing, able and conscious to decide they want in- at that moment and for the entire time? What if they don’t quite understand, because the world tells them differently, that even if you’re mid-playing and someone changes their mind, seemingly for no reason, you have to stop?
No is no, even if it follows six yeses. What if they won’t just “catch”  that there really is no grey area? Rape is rape no matter the amount of alcohol, existing relationship or number of preceding yeses?  Are we taking for granted that everyone know that?
What if, in all the victim shaming women have endured for years, we’ve also failed our boys by assuming they’d figure out how to be good and then being shocked and disappointed when even good boys rape?

You can blame society. You can blame history. You can blame the hyper-sexualized media that our kid are exposed to today. But the fact is, rape has existed since the beginning of time and the lessons surrounding it start in the home. They are about respect. They are about ego. They are about explicitly teaching kids their roles as responsible humans in the world.  Parents need to have these conversations with their daughters and their sons. We need to stop concentrating only on how to protect our girls from rape and start educating our boys on how not to rape. Always.

Because, George Will, being a victim isn’t a privilege and rape hurts everyone.


No April Fools Here

Just because you don't like pranks doesn't mean you're not funny.

Just because you don’t like pranks doesn’t mean you’re not funny.

Dateline April Fool’s Day: I hate this day. I’ve hated this day since I was a small child. For some reason, of which I have no idea, I have always been unusually uncomfortable with surprises, pranks and the like. When I was small, I would lay awake at night worried about having one pulled over on me this first day of April.

Even now, as a grown adult I hate pranks. There is a radio station (in every town in America I’m sure) that does “Phone Taps” every morning where they call some poor unsuspecting fool and pretend to be someone who will inevitably make the poor recipient react like a fool on live radio. I get physically ill listening to these types of calls. I don’t know why I am s averse, but I’ve come to accept it about myself and know my limits without judging (most of the time).

This morning, two of my three woke up to tell me about the elaborate schemes they had planned for today to April Fool their friends. I said no to both. Not because they were potentially hurtful (they weren’t) but because I’ve been a teacher in a school on this day and I didn’t want my kids to add to the inevitable distractions.

While the older two decided how they were going to fool their friends in a mom-approved way, The Baby began his sometime ritual of freakish behavior. I didn’t catch on for quite a while, figuring he was just reacting to dad’s business trip and my late night meetings as unacceptable interruptions to his routine. Then I casually mentioned to The Girl how I’ve always hated pranks and The Baby burst out with “you too?” in obvious relief.

Then, thick-headed me, finally figured out (you know, with him telling me) that all the morning oddness was a direct result of the anxiety over possible pranks at school. Poor dude. I feel his pain.

We chatted. I told him what I was going to do today to quell my anxiety. He promised me he’d try the same. Somehow, just knowing he had company in the group of folks not in on the joke seemed to make him feel better. Apparently, aversion to pranks is genetic. Let’s hope dealing well with anxiety is too. At least for the teachers’ sake.