“Take any sane person…”

“…and put them in a house alone with three young children all day and they will be insane by the end of the day.”  (This is what I tell Greg sometimes when he gets off of work to sum up how our day was in a nice neat little package.  Here you go.  I gift-wrapped it for you).  This might be a slight exaggeration.  They *might* be able to retain their sanity for the day.  Hell, they might last a few days.  Try seven years (Actually, I take the fact that I am not insane as a true testament to how mentally strong I really am, though staying home with kids definitely tests ones limits and let’s just say no one makes it out unscathed.  Some people call this personal growth or even the dreaded “growing up”.  I call it “no where to run from your personal demons confronting you face-to-face on an every day basis and there’s no where to hide, it’s show time, baby”).

Some people like to act like they have it all together.  Like having and raising kids is easy peasy lemon squeezy.  I don’t like these people (because I don’t like liars).  The truth is, having kids may be less difficult for some depending on the personalities of the kids and the amount of personal baggage you bring to the table to sort through.  Though, I have a hard time believing that I am that unusual and I think most people (not on facebook) would agree that it’s the challenge of a lifetime.

Then there are older people whose kids are grown.  You can’t trust these people.  They have amnesia, you see.  It’s a coping mechanism, a kind of memory repression.  Sure, people do this all the time with unpleasant thoughts and events.  (Hell, it seems like every time I go on vacation with Greg and the kids I do it.  While in the thick of it, I am often overwhelmed by stress and cursing myself and Greg for thinking that going on X trip was even remotely feasible, never mind a “good” idea.  I make mental notes: “Never again…”  Yet it seems like only a matter of days have gone by after we get back home when I find myself remembering the trip with nostalgia and longing.  All of the stress and negativity is already fading fast.  Weird.  The human mind is a sneaky Pete).

You know these people.  They are the ones who look at your little terrors with dewy eyes and exclaim how cute they are (even while said kids are glaring at this person with poison arrow dart eyes).  Did my strained polite smile falter just then when I said, “Thank you”?  It’s not their fault.  Like I said, it’s a natural coping mechanism so it’s best to just smile, accept their praise and then continue wrestling the candy out of your kids hands in the grocery check out lane.

Not that I would trade it for the world, of course.  I often have to remind myself that I chose this path (not that I really had any inkling what I was getting myself into.  Who does?) and that the highly rated public school that Ruth would go to all day is just down the block and if we really wanted to, we could make both that and preschool for Joel happen (theoretically anyway).

I recently ran into a mother with three kids of similar ages to mine who looked at me incredulously when I told her I homeschool mine.  She had to catch her breath, compose herself from the shock of my announcement before she could come back with, “Why?!” and then declare that she couldn’t wait to get her oldest into school and that she had just signed up her middle child, a four year old like Joel, for five days a week of preschool (this is not by any means an unusual response to my admission of homeschooling.  It’s really interesting to hear peoples’ reasoning behind schooling or homeschooling their kids.  Not that I blame this woman for her sentiments.  I understand them completely.  I feel them (see above)  I am right there with you, lady.  I get it. More than you probably know.  Trust me).

But I do make a different choice.  Though it’s difficult, I think (I hope) it’s worthwhile.  I also count myself as lucky enough to be able to stay home with the kids and invest so much into them.  When things get hard I try to remember this.  And I try to keep my sense of humor (you just dumped out the entire basket of crayons and the dogs water bowl for no reason?  That’s hilarious.  It’s so funny I forgot to laugh. (early nineties humor anyone?) Just endless hilarity around here).  And I try to remember that they won’t be this young forever.  I assume things will get easier at some point (though I have heard multiple people advise, “little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems”.  Not helping, people.  La-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you…”).

The last things I do to maintain sanity (which I’ve become very good at), in case you’re wondering, are invest in some kind of self care (sleep, blogging, good food, zumba) and look on the bright side (which believe me, does not come naturally to me).  Every day is a balancing act.  Even though I fall multiple times per day, I get back up with determination and purpose.  That’s all a person can do.






redoing floors and other introspectivities

Well, I have this to say: when you purchase a house that was built in 1950 and doesn’t seem to have been updated much since, there is a lot to do.  Not that we are going all hog wild, taking out second mortgages and stuff (like I even know what that means) and doing “the works” but there are a few things that we can’t avoid doing.  Like the floors.  Whoever got this house “market ready” sanded off the old finish on the wood floors, probably because it looked like hell, then they left it “raw” because why bother paying to refinish it?  Let the buyer (a.k.a. me) handle that.

Normal people would probably get the house ready to live in, refinish the floors, paint, clean and all that, before moving in with their family.  We are not normal.  Also known as: we are poor/cheap and didn’t want to pay another month’s rent at the apartment so we just immediately started living here.  It’s been nearly two months since we moved in and we have finally gotten the floors redone (I’m sure you can probably imagine the hassle of trying to be out of the house two days in a row by 8 am with all three kids and staying gone while the floors were being tended to and then coming home at the end of the day trying to convince the childs that the new floor is not a skating rink or a gym and to STAY THE FREAK OFF OF IT!  Ahem.  Needless to say, it’s been a trying experience).

What, though, does any of this have to do with introspection?  Well, I was just getting to that part.  You see, we live in a college town.  So, yay, football and all of that, and loads of pedestrian traffic up the whazoo which I should be happy about because saving the planet and low carbon emissions and stuff but MOVE!  Anyways, smartphone zombies aside, the neighborhood we moved into I don’t have the right credentials for.  It seems like everyone on our block holds at least a master’s degree, many with ph.ds (did I dot that right?  I don’t think I dotted that right).  Then here’s me: stay home mother with not a single letter after my name and nary a paycheck in my pocket and ever a baggy t shirt as my uniform.  Ok, that’s fine.  You all do your thing and I’ll be over here doing my thang with my three loud and mostly naked wild children and we can live in relative harmony.  That’s cool.  Yet, I can’t help but feel a little like I don’t fit in, can’t relate to my neighbors.

An interesting thing.  As I insinuated, we’ve had loads of service people to the house in the last two months for various issues and house oddities.  I find myself drawn in a strange way to these people.  As they enter the home in shabby work clothes, I feel less self-conscious.  When they look me in the eye and speak humbly about my plumbing or stove, my guard drops and I find myself opening up in lighthearted conversation with these people feeling like these are my people.  The working class.  Blue collar.  Skilled laborers.

My dad was a carpenter.  Really he was a jack of all trades and his skills ranged from electrical to cabinetry to auto maintenance.  Any kind of fixitry, any home improvement subjects, he had at least a base line knowledge of.  The kind of home I was raised in was such that a table saw could often be heard in the background as my brothers and I played in our yard.  My dad worked strange hours, sometimes being gone for many days on end and other times being home a lot in our garage, his workshop, until late into the nights.  His clothes were always dirty and often covered with sawdust.  No one had any airs to stand on.

This strange 9-5 schedule I’m not used to.  These nicely dressed and well-kempt people that surround me seem unnecessarily stiff and serious and often full of their own importance.  Straight talk has been replaced by office jargon.  Honest work seems to take a back seat to building up an image and making connections with colleagues.

It’s an odd world, a sea of white collars as far as the eye can see.  Some might argue a necessary and useful one but still.  I can’t help but feel a bit lost and a bit of longing for something else.

Two year old trials

One good thing about a two year old is that they are always down with cookies for breakfast.  However, life with a two year old isn’t all peachy.  In fact, a lot of times it’s downright trying.

Miles.  My third.  My baby.  How I adore him.  And how, compared with the complexities of my relationships with my older two kids, simple and easy.  Yet it’s undeniable that there are many times when I think that I would trade all of that adorable simplicity for just a bit more mechanical and social competency.  “Miles, stop being so two!” I admonished him the other day after having had to carry him about two miles down a trail for a nature hike we had signed up for the other day, “Can’t you be more like five?”  He looked up at me and smiled good-naturedly, unaware of the havoc he was wreaking on my spinal cord or the ways that he took my last bit of frayed patience and stomped it into the dirt beneath his cute little foot.  One of the other parents nearby heard my comment and said, “One day you’ll wish for this time back so just…soak it up!”  (Yeah right, I thought, though of course I know she’s right.  I don’t actually need a reminder of this.  None of us do, do we?)  Ruth, at least, got my joke and, loving to be “in” on any kind of amusement at her siblings’ expense shot me a wicked smile and laughed ruefully (Thank you, Ruth, now that is exactly the kind of response I was looking for).

Though I must admit that at four, and twice Miles’ age, Joel wasn’t much better on that hike.  He did walk under his own power (sort of) but he had hold of one of the straps from my backpack the entire time and was using it sort of like a personal tow rope (what am I complaining about?  Who needs a gym membership when you’re lugging fifty plus pounds of kid around all day, am I right?)

I have to say, if we’re just hanging around the house, Miles is great.  Mostly he just follows me around humming to himself and playing little games.  When we’re at home, Miles is my main squeeze.  He is still too young to really start demanding things or fight too much with his siblings (unlike the other two who are very much wrapped up in their own drama together and spend much of every day at war with either me or each other, often both.  A different kind of exhausting).  Yet it’s the second we have anything useful to accomplish in a timely fashion that Miles really throws a monkey wrench into the whole works.  These are the times when I wish his young childhood away.

He’s the one that’s blissfully unaware of the dangers of speeding traffic down our block.  He’s also the one who daydreamily wanders from the back yard into the front yard without so much as a moments hesitation making me constantly scramble to locate him throughout the day.  He’s the one who still naps mid day, ONLY on me, so that I’m trapped in a chair unable to clean, cook or help my other children in any way at those times, much to the displeasure and outrage of said children.  He’s the one who makes huge messes on a whim and then just wanders away in search of the next item to destroy or dump out.

Sigh.  It’s times like these when I wonder WHAT IN GOD’S NAME AM I THINKING BY EVEN CONSIDERING HAVING ANOTHER CHILD??  Ahem.  ‘Scuse me.  I also often am marveling at people with lots of kids and stand a bit aghast at the thought of my own maternal grandmother who had TEN kids.  How do these people do/how did they do it?  It leaves me in a deep silent awe.

Another day is starting.  I have not one but two dirty diapers to change.  Breakfast is needing preparation and the dishes from last nights’ dinner are glaring at me expectantly.  I must go and milk those few moments of pure joy when they happen and eek out a few more of some kind of relaxation.  They are what keep this ship afloat.

“Thumbs down to preschool”

That’s what I texted Greg (yeah, I text now.  What of it?) after I got home from Joel’s preschool tour yesterday.  Despite Joel’s protests that he didn’t want to go, I found myself blindly determined, scrambling to get the kids all dressed and somewhat presentable and out the door early yesterday morning (ok, it was 10:30.  That’s damn early for us, believe me).  Sometimes I ignore my better judgment and just press forward, convincing myself that something is for the best.  This usually leads to trouble.  Yesterday was no exception.

One thing about homeschooling: you never feel like you’re doing the right thing.  Or, when you’re around other homeschoolers you do and idealistically, your reasoning may be sound (I consider mine to be) but you are never getting that validation from most of the people around you.  Mostly everyone you talk to about it, or mention it to casually, smiles and nods but has that incredulous look just below the surface.  Some people are downright blunt and ask direct questions like, “How will they learn math, though?” or everyone’s favorite: “What about SOCIALIZATION??”  (God forbid they don’t learn all the ins and outs of Hannah Montana (that’s not a show anymore, is it?) or what clothing styles are “in” for pre-preteens).  Self-doubt seems to come with the package.

I guess that’s why I forced ourselves to go on the preschool tour yesterday.  Though I had been through what I will call a little taste of preschool hell with Ruth just a few years ago, and the bitter taste of lost money and my own stubborn stupidity are still very vividly on my tongue, I had to do it again, if just to prove to myself that yes, this is what I think.  No, the school system has not changed in the past three years.  (Plus, though I really dislike many many things about the school system, I’m actually not totally opposed to one or more of the kids going for one or more years at some point on this educational journey, if for nothing else than to understand what it is we are choosing not to do.  That’s part of the reason we settled where we did.  If and when one of the kids wants to try school or if and when I would ever need/want one of them to go, we have a safety net.  It also feels like moving to a place with highly ranked schools was a little bit of a personal test for me because now, at least to the outside world, there is no reason why I would choose to homeschool, it’s simply my choice (where before I lived where the public schools were supposedly not the greatest and so if I couldn’t afford private school, clearly my only option would be homeschooling.  Of course this is all if you buy into the whole school ranking system in the first place, which I don’t.  If I don’t believe in standardized testing for people, why would I for schools?)

In any case, there we were, in shabby but clean clothes, with brushed hair and teeth for once, promptly at the school for our 11 am tour.  I should have balked when a few seconds after entering into the darkened reverberating halls Miles suddenly started clinging to me with a death grip and cowering against my shoulder.  Joel’s hand in mind felt tense and clammy.  Ruth seemed to be the only one putting on a brave face, perhaps for the benefit of Joel or perhaps because after all it wasn’t she who would be asked to be left alone in this place.  As we approached the office, I was greeted with faltering smiles (I’m not sure if this was because of my three kids (“This lady is clearly a breeder”) or my torn jeans and faded t shirt or both) but either way, I was instantly underwhelmed by my reception.  Strike one.  First impressions may not be everything but they’re sure important.

The lady recovered, introduced herself and began our tour down to the preschool room.  Or should I say the “dingy daycare room of doom?”  Ok, that sounds harsh but let me explain.  On Sunday when I talked with Greg, I said, “You know that with the university so close it’s going to be all college students, don’t you?  It’s going to be basically college students babysitting my four year old is what it’s going to be.  Why do I need to pay an exorbitant amount of money for my kid to be babysat by college students?  I could just watch him myself.”  And when I stepped through the door, I couldn’t ignore the sinking feeling in my heart.  The room was small, poorly lit and just…dingy.  It was painted a color that made a person feel sickly and unwell, sort of a prison wall yellow.  I looked at the teacher.  25 years old.  Max.  “Hello,” I said.  She mumbled a greeting but quickly went back to babysitting, I mean teaching her group of students.  Strike two.  If you expect me to leave my kid with you, you’d better be all warm and friendly up in my grill.

I kept my reservations to myself and continued following the tour lady around the room with a big fake smile plastered on the old face.  I can be quite the phony when I set my mind to it when the situation arises.   It was just depressing is all I can say.  All those young children separated from their parents in the care of these…strangers.  These apathetic strangers.  I might catch a little hell for saying that but if I’m honest, it was what I was thinking as I was standing there all plastic grin in place and cold sweat in my armpits. ( I understand that for some, there isn’t much choice in the matter.  Also, people from other situations would jump at the chance to send their kid to a place like this.  However, I am who I am and that’s not my situation.  I am able to be home with the kids and so if I were to make a different choice, I would have to be convinced that was somehow superior to just keeping the kids home.  Each of us makes the best decisions for our families based on our experiences, situations and choices).

We moved on to the outdoor play space.  And I will be honest: it was awesome.  It was such a cool space with a stick fort, outdoor music instruments and huge mud kitchen.  It was the most excited I was able to authentically get since stepping through the doors.  The kids instantly started playing like crazy despite the fact that everything was soaking wet and there was a steady drizzle on our heads.  But I noticed as soon as I started to talk that I had to raise my voice in order to be heard.  That’s when I realized that the outdoor play space, cool as it was, was located only about ten feet from a busy street, four lanes of heavy traffic.  Not only was it agitating to have the noise and movement of the traffic so close by, it also made me nervous about the kids’ safety if there was an accident or something nearby in the street.  Strike three.

You’re out.

Sigh.  At this point, I told Greg, I feel like I’ve gone too far down the path I’m on to ever go back.  I feel like I’ve opened Pandora’s box and can never see things the same again.  Whenever I’m in a school, all I see is marketing, people trying to make money off of me and my kids.  When I’m walking in the door, I am aware of the sense of losing my identity, or submitting to a giant powerful system that doesn’t necessarily care about what’s best for me or my children.

Yet I feel it’s something I’m going to have many years of struggle surrounding.  What I mean is feeling all of this pressure and allure to send the kids to school, try it in one way or another, and then have to admit to myself over and over again that my feelings are leading me elsewhere.  It seems that as a homeschooler, my decision is one that will come under constant scrutiny, mine and others, and will be a decision that I won’t make only once but many times over.



The Question

Well, it’s more like “the decision” or rather “the indecision”.  I’m talking about the eternal ponderings that plague my mind as an aging woman: to not or to have another child.  Or try to have one.  Or try to not prevent one.  Or try half heartedly to prevent one from being conceived and then if one is conceived, clearly that’s an answer from…somewhere…that it was meant to be.  Sigh.  It sounds so pathetic when it’s all typed out there like that.  Yet I have to believe that I’m not alone.

I thought I would be free of this constant questioning by now.  After Joel was born and it seemed like the question of a third was on my mind what seemed like every day until I got pregnant with Miles, I thought I was in the clear.  There.  At least I can stop obsessing over the question…rest a little easy.  Oh, how wrong I was.

Because the truth is, though three kids is about 50 percent over what many people think of as the maximum kid allotment, and though I honestly feel totally overwhelmed by the kids I do have, and I feel totally lucky to have what I do have and I really (really) like my body being empty of another tiny developing human, ever since Miles was born, two plus years ago, the question has been on my mind.  If I’m truthful, almost every day.

So, do I take that as a sign that I am clearly not meant to be done?  Or do I take it for what it much more likely is which is my biological clock raging against the dying of the light?  (Whoa, I thought that by appeasing my biological clock and having kids when I did that I was avoiding this particularly hypnotic and sometimes devastatingly deep seeded urge to procreate.  Guess not.  Sometimes I speculate that this feeling must just intensify with age and the only respite must come with menopause.  Though I will say that at least at this point it is balanced by the unavoidable realities of having kids, highlighted by the constant chaos I exist within, as well as my own just plain tiredness and a desire to just move on already from the baby phase of life).

That’s why I tell Greg that I have equally intense feelings in both directions.  I simultaneously deeply desire more children and am terrified of getting pregnant again.  I long for the heady feelings of creating new life, yet I’m exhausted by the idea of the work of a new baby.  I feel elated about having such a full home and life, yet I feel overwhelmed by the worry that each kid invokes, the responsibility, and the potential for being deeply hurt.

So…where does all this pondering leave me?  Right where I started off: totally bereft of a decision.

Wow, I’m glad I wrote this.  My situation is so much clearer and my feelings so much more articulated (not).

I don’t think there will be any respite for me.  The choice seems to be either to keep having more children up until I reach menopause or to be in this questioning, somewhat hellish, purgatory of indecision.  So, that’s fun.  (It’s times like this that I envy really religious people who don’t believe in birth control.  It would be easier if I believed that there was somebody else, somebody omniscient and eternally benevolent, that was deciding these things.  Being an atheist ain’t all it’s cracked up to be).


back to unschooling

That’s a joke because we never really stop “unschooling” or practicing “authentic” or “natural” learning.  That’s the whole point: education isn’t broken up by subject or taught with an all-knowing teacher tossed up in front of a bunch of bewildered students who are simply there to absorb and regurg, nor is it relegated to specific times of the day or year.  It’s constant, continuous and…natural.

However, that doesn’t mean that different times of the year don’t have different qualities to them.  Quite the contrary.  In dabbling in Waldorf educational philosophy whenever I can, an intimate relationship with nature and a connection to the subtle changes of the seasons is the first step in developing perception and observation.  Sense of place.  Highly underrated.

Summer is clearly a heady, outwardly energetic time of year for everyone in this part of the world with plants and animals exploding with leaves, flowers, songs and activities, daylight lingers long into the evenings and the temperatures soar, demanding as much bare skin and feet as we are willing to uncover (my kids are often of the opinion that when it comes to clothes in the summer, less is more and no clothes is the best of all).

In summer, our unschooling consists of what the kids seem magnetically drawn to which is being outside pretty much all day every day, running, biking, swimming and playing at parks.  Believe me: a lot of learning gets accomplished, not that I think I need to prove to anyone that my kids are learning diddly squat (not even it turns out, the state of Michigan.  So that takes a lot of the weight off of our “curriculum”).  The lessons are not often of what most people consider the usual sort (abc’s and 123’s) and are what I would probably label (if I had to label but as I age I find I am becoming increasingly wary of labels) “body knowledge”.  It’s awesome to watch.  If I sit back and actually watch my kids playing (that is if Miles stays out of the street for five minutes and I don’t have to get up to chase him continually) I can literally see the neurons connecting as they find their balance on a bike, figure out how to time a jump rope just right, learn how to coordinate their limbs as they climb and jump from a tree over and over and over again (this would be one of their favorite summer “games”.  Our new yard has an old crab apple tree that the kids are fond of climbing (you guessed it: naked) and then swinging down from one of the branches.  I find myself holding my breath if I watch for too long, worried about broken bones and the like but then I just employ one of my go-to parenting tactics that saves me lots of worry and gray hairs.  I just say: “Be careful!” and then I stop watching (I know you thought I was going to say “crack open a beer”.  That one works good for when Ruth is having meltdowns and I need some extra “patience in a can”.  Just so everyone knows, I never (hardly ever) drink during the week and never by myself and if I do, it’s only one beer anyway because I’m still breastfeeding on demand like a chump).

This type of learning is really underemphasized and undervalued in our modern society, and in my opinion, accounts for all of the top (brain) heavy kids walking around out there stumbling over their own feet.  Or at least contributes to it.  To me, “kids need to be free to be kids” means they need the license to explore their physical world and their place in it.  They need to experiment with gravity, with their own body and what they can do with it.  They also need to learn to balance it, to learn what feels good to it.  I feel like when people grow up neglecting this part of their development, they are destined to develop things like poor posture (said with punishingly slumped shoulders) or repetitive stress injuries because they never developed body awareness or, in short, high body esteem: respect and appreciation for your body and its abilities and needs (don’t even get me started on the rampant negative body issues pressed down upon our young girls pretty much from infancy on (burn in hell, Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake bastards)).

(As a side note, one of the reasons I feel like I want to homeschool Ruth is purely physical.  I can’t, for the life of me, think of anything more unnatural to a kid of that age than to sit still for hours at a time.  My kids, and let me emphasize this, never stop moving.  As in, the most they will usually sit still for in a day is ten minutes left to their own devices.  Young kids want to move.  It is their natural state it seems to me.  I can’t see the benefit (to the kid.  To the teacher, another story) of having them sit at a desk for that long.)

However, since every schooled kid is revving up for “back to school”, I find myself getting a little caught up in the frenzy as well.  Though I’m not stocking up on pencils and notebooks and folders and back to school clothing, I am looking forward to a change in our activities as the season shifts.  I see us settling into a bit more structure, perhaps this looks like actually getting it together in time to make it to things like the children’s storytime at the library or lego club or stuff like that.  I anticipate more reading and cozy activities and projects like their American girl doll houses (big cardboard boxes that they decorate with cut out magazine pictures) and lego creations being revisited and unearthed again.  I have neglected our circle time all summer, especially with how busy we’ve been with the move, and will probably dive back into more of that as the days cool off and shorten.  Though I still anticipate plenty of time outside.  Actually, I really love the fall.  It’s my favorite time of year, and I think that September and October usually have the very best weather for us of the entire year.  I also look forward to doing things like going to the park and zoo and museums while all the other kids are in school during the week.  Everything is so empty!

Ah, nothing like back to unschooling…


sex positive parenting

You may or may not have heard this term but basically, in my understanding, it boils down to discussing sex and issues surrounding sex and sexuality openly with your children from an early age, in a positive way, acknowledging that your child, as are all humans, is a sexual being, or will grow up to be one, and that’s great, healthy and normal.  Revolutionary, no?  Maybe not in some countries, with more sexually progressive cultures.  But in America?  Hell yes.

I only need to look back at the messages aimed at me as a child up through high school and college from the first awkward discussions between my mother and I (her, in an effort to make sure I was aware that my privates were off limits to others, would ask me if anyone had touched them by referring to my vulva as my “front butt”.  I mean, talk about the influence of language) to fifth grade “human growth and development class” to the vague but ominous messages from the church ( I grew up catholic) to the hyper-sexualized, objectified portrayal of women pretty much everywhere, to begin to understand the heavy distortions that have caused me many problems in my identification with my sexuality, my romantic relationships, heck, my life.

I have no desire to pass this on to my kids.  But, where to begin?  And how to progress?  As messed as our culture surrounding sex and sexuality is, I am a product of these ideas, of this time.  Do I even have the lenses to see the subtle but pervasive messages and ideas floating around everywhere?

In my book, the first step is avoiding the classic stereotypic boy and girl ideas.  My son says his favorite color is pink and Disney princesses are strictly off limits to my daughter.  I want to do all that I can to encourage my daughter to be more assertive and aggressive, and for my son to be contientious, courteous, and perceptive.  Harmless sibling squabbles aside, I don’t accept violence from anyone for any reason, though I’ll be the first to admit that this one is still a work in progress as I was raised in a physically and emotionally violent household and it’s often my knee jerk reaction when the kids are acting up.  That would be the topic of another whole series of blog posts.  I can’t help but feel that when the kids are violent with each other, it’s often a mirror of my own anger and physical responses.

Why is that the first step?   After all, what to gender roles have to do with a person’s sex life?  Besides, don’t we need gender roles in order to maintain the attraction between females and males?  I see it as the first step because I believe that healthy sex is mutually beneficial and mutually respectful sex.  We live in a culture where females looks are emphasized as their most important quality, where self-objectification is not just omnipresent, but is seen by some confused “feminists” as a source of “power”.  I believe this is a distorted, mistaken and incredibly harmful notion.  Combine the idea that women in all facets of their lives are supposed to be demure, polite and “nice” with gratuitous self-objectification being touted as the new feminism with the flip side of the coin: the hypermasculinizing (I think I just invented a word) of our young boys, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster in the bedroom.

From a young age, our boys are conditioned, socialized, to be tough, not to cry, to get back up and “don’t be a sissy”.  They are also excused from acknowledging and encouraged to ignore other peoples’ feelings.  I will say that this is the general culture at large and varies from family to family and in different peer groups as the kids age. It starts young, though.  I have grimaced as I’ve listened to someone, some man or other we’ve run into, start using that ultra-masculine deep growling voice towards Joel (Joel.  My sweet innocent boy who has such a soft and squishy heart full of love and joy) to try to get him to “man up”.  I’ve felt a blind rage overcome me as I’ve stood nearby and heard someone tell him that what he was doing was “for sissies” (the irony of this is that this person was a woman.  Hel-LO?)   I’ve sat by while the mother of a friend of Ruth’s told her also seven year old daughter when she was complaining that a certain other boy had done something aggressive towards her that “So?  He’s a boy.”  (NO.  HELL TO THE NO.)

They start young.  So, so must I.

The second step is to correctly name body parts (it’s a vulva mom, not a “front butt”) and not to shame the kids, especially not the girls, for touching or being curious about their private parts. It’s important to lift the stigma surrounding our girls’ physical bodies and to let them grow up with as much healthy esteem surrounding their bodies as they can.

I should also put in here, as long as we are on the subject, that child sexual abuse is a huge societal problem in our country and affects a huge number of children, a surprising number of children.  It’s something that we as parents need to be constantly on guard about and not to trust anyone lightly with the care of our young children.  There is also an awesome website here that talks about the tools to arm your children with in order to prevent them from becoming victims.  It’s important that kids know their bodies are their own to use as they wish and that nobody, relative or otherwise, has the right to touch them, hug them, kiss them, tickle them, etc. in any way that they don’t want.  Ever.

This is the first post in an ongoing journey toward how to raise my kids sex-positively.  It raises huge uncomfortable questions.  What is healthy sexuality?  What is healthy sex?  What is/should ideally a romantic relationship be about?  What does society and the culture at large say about these things?  What do I think about these things?  How can I counter the larger cultural messages my kids are getting from…everywhere?

It’s not gonna be easy.  It’s sure not gonna be pretty.  Do I think it’s worthwhile?  Hell to the yes.