Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Boys And Girls

As a woman, and as the mother of a boy, I do not accept when I hear "boys will be boys" in response to a child's behavior. I do understand human nature is human nature. I also understand that no child come into the world knowing right from wrong. My son and many of his peers seem to be naturally drawn to wrestling, guns, and danger. As a parent I see it as my responsibility to strike a balance between play fighting and actually hurting another person. I don't condone my son's behavior just because of his gender, if it is lacking in kindness and gentleness. I don't understand when others give their sons the "boys will be boys" free pass.

As a woman, and as a mother of a daughter, I also don't accept when I hear "girl drama." Can girls be dramatic?  Sure, as they are learning to navigate social skills, friendships peer pressure and change. So are boys.  The categorizing of behavior in children is already linked to their gender at such a young age. It scares me. At this time in our country, we've gone backwards. It saddens and terrifies me to think that my daughter's rights are more in the hands of men than ever before. We teach our daughters today that women can do anything men can. Then over and over again, we see the inequality and it is challenging to believe our own words.

We recently saw a man being questions for his past actions, become unhinged. We saw him beg, plead, and cry. We watched as he portrayed himself a victim of injustice, and complained that his life was destroyed. Its not hard to imagine that if a woman said all the same words in the same manic tone, she would be described as emotionally unstable.

That same day we saw a woman recall the painful events of her past. She didn't want to come forward, but felt it was important for the country to know a man like this might not be the best person to be deciding the rights of people in our country, especially women's rights. Bravely she got under the glaring spotlight and recounted all she could remember from an unforgettable event in her life. She explained how this man in question had his hand over her mouth to silence her. For many years he succeeded.

All of us hear her now. Some choose not to listen, but they will have to soon enough. For my son, and my daughter I do not accept this behavior. Maybe someone long ago accepted this man's behavior and said "boys will be boys." We know many people describe this women's behavior as dramatic. I hope that our future generation of boys has better hearing, because when we empower our girls to speak up, we all better learn how to listen.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Here We Go Again!

Sunday nights have never been a walk in the park for me. As a kid they were fraught with anxiety about the next day at school. As an adult Sunday nights brought the anxiety of work the next day. The end of the weekend, and the beginning of responsibility and expectations that I wasn't always able to measure up to. I got a reprieve the this weekly ritual when I first became a mother. I had no where to report each week, and no one to report to except my baby. I loved the lack of schedule and structure. That was very short lived of course because within a few years school entered my life once again. This time for my child.

My father once sent me a poem about Sundays and Mondays. He tried to help me embrace them with excitement and optimism. I really want to try and find that right about now. Last night that dreaded feeling reared it's head again. At first I thought I just had a stomach ache, and then I recognized it. Anxiety not being a stranger to my system, sometimes shows up before I can even place what I am anxious about. That was the case last night. It took me about an hour and then right before I got into bed my eyes started welling up. It felt a bit like Sam, the boy in  Mo Willams Leanardo books that finally explodes a page long rant of why he is crying.  I started with being tired, and got all the way to my babies are growing up. One is already done with Kindergarten and the other in the last year of elementary school. I am already anticipating the horrible unknown of middle school. It feels like every school year has some big monumental leap, or a bigger level of importance than the one before it.

My parent brain understands that I pass on any anxiety to my children. I do a great job of hiding this from them, but inside my won head it feels like a build up of all my first days of schools wrapped up into one and magnified when I send my kids off on that first day. Two years I sat down with a therapist to talk this through, but I knew in my heart of heart everything would be okay, and I was too cheap to pay someone else to say that to me. I also know that they have their own anxiety without any help from me. What I didn't know is how much I would feel their fears along with them.  This of course is par for the parenting course. I am learning to hear my own calming words that I relay to them and slowly I will believe in them too.

I am grateful I feel things so deeply. The flip side is that I have a passion for life, and feel intense joy most of the time. I just wish that every time my adrenaline kicked in it didn't feel like a punch in the gut. Here I am experiencing elementary school anxiety all over again for a second time. This time I am learning a lot more though.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Mother Said

There will be days like this. Days when my feelings get so much bigger than my body has room for. Days when I feel so overwhelmed, that making a sandwich seems insurmountable. Days when being a parent has me regressing to my own childhood, calling my own mother so that she can tell me what to do. Yesterday was one of those days.

Part I:  While I was out with my son, my husband took my daughter out. He had been waiting a long time, until she was at the right age, to share with her that he had been married before. I had an opportunity when she asked how we met earlier in the week, but I felt he should be the one to tell her. I thought that I would be present for this, but we had a misunderstanding on that part. Later that afternoon when I saw her, my daughter said she had something she wanted me to know. She told me that she knows now, and gave me a smile and a wink. I looked over at my husband and he told me he told her, explained that she was really surprised, and then asked if that meant she had another mother. When he explained that she didn't, she then asked if his first wife was kind of like her step mom. By the time I got to her, I explained that I was her only mom and that all it meant really was that daddy chose someone who wasn't the right fit the first time around. None of this went the way I envisioned, but expectations, they get me every time.

Part II: My daughter didn't get a part in the play she auditioned for at school, but her friend did.  I'm not sure which of those facts was upsetting her, but likely both. To make matters worse I found this out moments before having to leave for the evening, leaving the kids with a babysitter. I tried to comfort her in the most time efficient way I could, but it just felt all wrong. In fact I think it left us both feeling worse. I reluctantly went out for the evening wishing I could reschedule the night and just go home and hold her. Her disappointment feels about ten times worse to me than any time I didn't get a part. Hurting on behalf of your children is just part of parenting, but wow it really stings sometimes.

Part III:  At the end of the night, I was so happy to get home. As promised, I planned on going straight in to give my sleeping daughter a hug.  Just needed to see off the sitter first.  When we chatted with her about how the night went she got very serious. She explained that she wanted to tell us that our son was very "inappropriate" with her. My husband and I asked her what she meant, and she began to explain that sometimes he takes his clothes off when she's babysitting. She said sometimes he pulls down his pants and "exposes" himself to her, and that the last time she babysat, he asked if he could see her breasts. As I stood listening to her speak, my stomach began churn. I wondered if my son was a predator in the making. I worried she was going to write her Me Too testimony and throw our whole family under the bus with it. She was speaking about it in such a formal uncomfortable way. She even explained that in her college Psychology class she read that kids his age are fascinated with bodies so she knows it's age appropriate, but that she wanted to let us know, because it was still really "inappropriate." I think she said she wanted to let us know about 7 times, and now we really know, because she really did let us know. Out of pure discomfort I asked her about her class and that if her take-away was that at his age this fell under normal curiosity, and I walked right into her saying "well, but his went a little further than that."  She also said that she explained to him that she may look young, but she is the authority and that he can't behave that way around her.

After thanking her for coming and Venmo-ing her $100 for her babysitting (and psychological evaluation), I wondered what part felt wrong to me. My son's behavior was inappropriate. Was my son's behavior really inappropriate? I don't disagree that he needs to better respect boundaries and others around him, but it still felt all wrong. I felt like I needed to wake him up to discuss consent with women, except that he is six. He doesn't know any of this yet and it is our job, as the adults around him, to teach him. Firmly, but also without shaming him. My husband and I felt kind of shamed by this sitter last night, so I wonder how much of that was leaning on him. We went to bed last night, wondering how to handle this all. When I woke up this morning I talked about boundaries, explained what is okay and what is not, and then dropped them off at school. As soon as I was alone, I called my mom. She listened, she laughed and then she said "there will be days like this." We will all be okay.  Sometimes you just need your mom to tell you that.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

New Year, New Me

That title is misleading, I am not really making any big changes. I didn't cut my long hair (yet,) I am not eating some new way that will give me a ton of energy and glowing skin. I am not committing to a new exercise plan, starting a new career, or anything drastic, I am just giving myself a gift. A gift everyday of a little bit of time. I am committed to not racing around like a stress case being late, and I am not going to bite off more than I can chew.  I will learn to ask for help where I need it, and graciously accept it. I will also accept where I am in this present moment, without thinking about what my next career move is.

The truth is I like what I am doing now. I teach senior citizens in the water, and help them stay healthy. I teach my children how to be decent little humans. I prepare three meals a day for a family of four. I run several programs at my children's school including but not limited to starting a Spanish program, motivating kids to walk or bike to school, International week oh and helping run the PTA. I love writing and make a point to do it weekly. I love seeing my friends when I can, and spend weekends having fun with my family.

I love to read, see a good movie, and I love when the people I am closest to make me laugh so hard I cry. I don't want those things to take a back seat anymore. I commit to making room for them this year. I am excited to take it all in. My cup runneth over, so just when I feel like maybe I am still thirsty. I am going to assess just how full I am.