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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Taking Off Your Clothes Proves Nothing

I recently spent a Saturday evening at my parent’s house watching a documentary on the JFK assassination. Yes, I know how lame that sounds. It was fascinating however. Hearing their commentary on where they were, what they thought, how they felt. It was like it had happened to them last month.

Something I noticed when I was watching was how polite people were in comparison to today. Specifically, a gentleman who was interviewed after Lee Harvey Oswald was assassinated. When asked what profession his killer, Jack Ruby was, the gentleman said, " I would rather not say". Mr. Ruby owned a strip club. The man being interviewed didn't want to violate an innocent person's ears with smut. A sharp contrast to today, where if you say the most outrageous things while interviewed you may get 5 million views on YouTube, or better yet an auto tune version of your interview and downloadable on iTunes.

How have we arrived to where we are today? I am not a prude by any means, but listening to the radio, I often have to turn it off before my kids hear some of the lyrics. Even 80's music used innuendoes to get their point across, just listen to Prince if you need an example.(Pocket full of Trojans?) You had to think about it to find out what they meant, and to be honest, I'm still figuring some of them out. Now they just flat out sing “I'm going to f*ck you.”

The other trend I have noticed is that celebrities and other women are liberating themselves from the falseness of Photoshop by taking naked photos of themselves on the internet. To show an example of what a "normal" body looks like. There is no normal. When I was a girl, I discovered that each of my friends and I had unique bodies in the gym locker room. I didn't need to go much further than that. And lucky for me, nobody can share that image from their memory.

But has anyone thought about what all of these images of naked women does for young men? Raising four boys I think about these things. They are too young to have access to free range Internet grazing, but what if they saw the picture of Keira Knightly posing naked to show what real bodies look like. Chances are, they wouldn't see the point. They would see boobs, free access to boobs.

In our house, there doesn’t seem to be a problem with nudity. The boys think that clothing is optional and I think that is great. But since I am the lone female and they are getting older I choose to be discriminatory when changing. First, I don’t appreciate the questions about my anatomy and secondly, who really wants to see their mom naked?

My Dad is an artist and we have several examples of nudity in various mediums around the house. I think the female body is beautiful and someday I want my sons to discover it for themselves. That is part of growing up. Like Columbus discovering the New World for the first time. If he would have been given a painting of exactly what it looked like prior to going on his voyage, he may have just stayed home instead. I exaggerate to express a point, but hopefully the experience of seeing a woman's body for the first time will be memorable and with someone they care about. Better yet, it will be shared with their girlfriend in real life and not between him and his phone and his girlfriend.

I don't want them to have the impression that it is normal for a girl to show them her naked body just because he wants to see it. There needs to be value with not taking your clothes off. The private celebrity photos that were leaked would never have been a problem if they hadn't been taken in the first place. If you want to show someone your naked body, then go to their house, knock on their door and show them in person. If you send it via text then expect to share it with the world.

Nudity is getting so commonplace that it isn’t even shocking anymore. If people keep trying to one up each other with who can shock the most, then what will be left? Kim Kardashian tried to break the Internet with a photo of her butt. What I didn't understand is that anyone could see her butt and then some if they Googled her. That is after all, how she got famous in the first place. The fact that the public has already forgotten just shows how impressionable it was.

Had I posted naked photos of myself all over the place before I met Don, he would have had to share me with the rest of the world. Even worse, my kids would have had to share that image of their mother with the world. Eww.

All of these photos trying to prove what real bodies look like are making a point that you have to prove something in the first place. Beauty is subjective. A woman taking her clothes off is an easy way to get attention. But as soon as she does, it will cancel out anything she has to say.

The more powerful thing would be for her to keep your clothes on; that way the words she says can actually be heard.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Parenting is Hard

I thought I would just state the obvious in the title.

For some reason, when I envisioned myself as a parent I thought about very specific stages.  Infancy and college.

I completely skipped over certain stages like, pre-teen and teen.   Nobody told me it was hard. Well, they might have, but I was so engrossed in the poetic version of what being a mother was going to be like that I didn't listen.  Within a month of being one I thought it was the most exhausting and emotionally charged time of my life. And it was hard. Especially physically. Going from sleeping 8 hours a night to two hours forced me to walk around in a constant state of dopamine delirium.

But as they grow I am finding that the hardest part about being a mom is the psychological side. Now I'm nostalgic for dopamine delirium. The constant internal battle of what I feel I should do and what I actually do.  The side that wants to be liked verses the side that needs to get down to business.

As I watch my eleven year old grow to my eye level,  I realize that is the only time we will actually see eye to eye.

It is no secret that I really dislike roller coasters.  The times I have been on one, I find the scariest part is  waiting to start.  When the bar crosses your legs (yes even kid roller coasters freak me out) and you have three or four seconds before you are jerked into ride submission. I have tried to tell the roller coaster operator that I'm not ready, but you can imagine how much they care.  Well, now I'm starting this pre-teen ride and all I can say is " I'm not ready, I'm not ready." but much like the operator, life isn't going to wait for me to decide when to proceed. It is going to take off whether I'm ready or not.

I  remember when Parker was our only child.  I can still smell his sweet smell and feel his soft Fred Flintstone feet, they were as wide as they were long. They looked like blocks.   How he wanted to sit as close, if not on top of me at all times.  Now he sits at an arms length.  It would be weird if he sat on top of me, I get that, but in my mind it is still a reasonable possibility. There are glimpses of times when he snuggles up to me, mostly when he is cold, or I'm sitting in his spot.  And I love it.

Recently Parker has made some choices that challenge every ounce of my parenting strength.  Things that matter to who he is going to become. Things that cannot go without addressing and the hardest part is delicately approaching him in a way that is both effective and loving.  I haven't found that balance.  I either go completely ape shit or way too soft.  Neither is very effective.

I'm looking for the healthy middle and as of yesterday, I have yet to find it and as of today it doesn't feel like I ever will.   I think back to the amount of planning I did for his birth and how when the day arrived I didn't follow a page of it ( there were several pages). .  In the moment I didn't care that I had wanted a water birth or a drug free birth. All I wanted what was best for both of us, and at that moment it was drugs and a bed. And when I held him, I knew I had done something right.

I guess the same is true for where we are now. We are entering unknown and scary territory.  I can plan all I want but situations are going to happen where I simply won't know what to do but have to go proceed anyway.

We survived his birth we will survive this too, but this time I won't have drugs to cover the pain.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Finally hearing the words you should have been hearing all along.

Last night Oscar was very sick.  He had a persistent cough and last night it peaked.  Around midnight his loud cough was enough to get me out of bed to check on him.  In the dim light I saw he was miserable.  I felt his head and he was burning up.  He was in a half sleep state and I asked him if he was hot and he said a barely audible "yet." (He is still working on his S's).  I took his pajama bottoms off and I heard a little "Thank you."I got him a cold wash cloth and placed it on his burning forehead. "Thank you", he mumbled.  I gave him a drink and again he said "Thank you mommy" and after a long pause he said,  "I love you."

Maybe it was the way he said it, or just the fact that he was feeling so awful but still wanted to tell me he loved me and was thankful, that brought me to my knees.  I kneeled down next to his bed and held his hand.  And within seconds tears were rolling down my face. My head was resting against his bed because I didn't have the energy to hold it up on my own.   Even when I heard his little snores I still sat there holding his hand and crying.

Words coming from my four year old touched me deeper than any words ever have.  I'm not exaggerating. Because for the first time I heard someone say they loved me.   I mean, I actually heard it with my heart and soul.

I am lucky that those words are familiar to me.  A day doesn't go by without hearing it from my Mom. When I talk to my brother he always tells me, my grandparents used to utter those words,  friends say it too.  When Don first told me he loved me I replied with "thank you." Not because I didn't feel the same way, but because the word itself just feels overused.

Don and I don't say "I love you" for that reason.  We have other words that are unique to us and sound ridiculous to anyone else.    The boys tell me they love me mostly after I tell them, but sometimes on their own.  Hearing it certainly makes me happy and I appreciate it, but at the same time, the words don't carry much of a punch.

It was in the middle of the night when I was at my most vulnerable state.   Our usually loud rambunctious house was quiet and sleepy.  Just moments before I was fast asleep and now I was kneeling at Oscar's bed crying.

Perhaps it was guilt. When I heard him coughing my first thought was that I was going to miss out on my sleep.  My legs took me to his side before my brain had even woken up.

But in that dark room I heard for the first time that I am loved.  It clicked.  I wasn't prepared to deflect his words, and in the silence I didn't have it dubbed into the mix of chaos of the day.  I was put in that silent moment so that the only words I would hear were ones I should have heard a long time ago.

Just because I don't attach weight to the words doesn't mean the person who is saying them feels the same way.  It is like being on a golf course and hearing the word "FORE" and not looking up and assuming the person who yelled it must not have actually meant it.

It wasn't until that moment that I was unexpectedly open and able to receive it, and I did.

A few minutes later I returned to bed feeling loved.  I woke up feeling loved.  Oscar's words occupied the hollow areas of my soul that I have neglected for so long.  I'm pretty good and finding reasons that I am unlovable, but at that moment I didn't try and it felt wonderful.

What Oscar couldn't have known is that I have had a rough couple months.  I had sunk into one of the familiar dark holes without explanation. I didn't feel anything, let alone love.  His words were the rope to start the processes of getting me out.

I needed to write about this  because I know in a few months, or a year I will be going about my day and one of the boys will tell me they love me and my mind will talk over it.  Or they will give me a picture of a rainbow with the words I Heart You and I will file it away with all the other rainbows.

I understand the tendency as a mother to keep going, trying to get as much done in the least amount of time. But I beg you, the next time your child or parent, or partner tells you they love you, listen with your heart because they mean it. And you never know when you will long so deeply to hear those words and won't be able to.

And in case you are wondering, Oscar is feeling much better. Apparently we equally needed each other to heal.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Did I offend you too?

Today is cold.  I reminded the boys to wear coats because, like I stated earlier, it is cold.  I don't know how I gave birth to expert meteorologist, but somehow my children know the weather without even stepping outside.  I explained that I had already been outside, watched the weather channel and checked my weather app and it was unanimous, it was going to be cold.

Apparently the boys think I'm trying to trick them. That nothing would give me more satisfaction than having them to go to school to find that their coat has made them too warm.  Or that I find pleasure in having them lug around a cumbersome article of clothing so they would have a miserable day.  
Here is how my conversation went with the oldest.  "It's cold outside" I said. "No it's not", he said. 
This went on about three times before the second oldest chimed in with a complete lie.  " I heard it was going to be in the 70's today".  Really? I'm surprised I even heard him because clearly he speaking out of his butt.  By this time the 3rd son chimed in and explained that he doesn't have a coat.  Which is complete BS because I was standing there holding it.  The 4th son just decided to fall to the ground in protest. He didn't even know what he was protesting. 
By the time we walked  out the door they were still arguing with me that it wasn't going to be cold, despite being able to see their own breath.

I guess they forgot that just Friday they were trick or treating in the snow. And that I had to aid them in the emergency that their fingers were going to fall off.  I was a hero then. Today I am the antihero who wants to ruin their lives.

I don't know when I became the temperature representative, but as a mother I find it is my single most important job next to feeding them.   Perhaps I put an over emphasis on their comfort.  Who in their right mind likes to be cold? I bring extra sweaters wherever I go.  And I have to wonder, when the boys are coat less on the playground and shivering, if they think "Wow, my mom was right, it IS cold today."  But I doubt it. 

I really could not believe that I was actually having an argument about this.  As they begrudgingly got in the car they made it known that their seat belt wouldn't fit because of their stupid coats. That they were carsick because they were overheated. That they were all going to die and I just didn't care.

We live about 2 miles from school and as we were driving a scream was heard from the backseat.  Fin saw a stink bug on Parker.  This caused pandemonium and I had to pull over.  He jumped out of the car and threw it on the ground.  This is a boy who has held worms in his hands.  After we collected ourselves, we were back on the road. Until a second stink bug made its appearance.  Now, not only was he going to die, but there was a stink bug infestation going on in his coat which was going to result in an allergic reaction.  *He is not allergic to anything.

I finally dropped them off and did all I could to not peal out of the parking lot. 

When I arrived at work I opened my email to find an message from the editor of a website I write for.  The subject line was something along the lines of "Heads up! Cranky people" in reference to the comments I received from an article of mine that she recently published.  Not that comments from people online matter, but they are saying some really negative things about me personally despite the fact that they don't know me. Honestly who has time to be offended these days?  At least if you are going to be offended have it be about something worthwhile, like if someone mocked your heritage or excluded you because of your gender or suggested the non-fat latte when you ordered the regular. But a humor piece written by a mom in the Midwest? Because they have never met me the don't realize how obsurd that is.  They must have a lot of time on their hands.   If you are curious about the article you can click here .  On the bright side, there were far more positive comments and I was given a heads up. 

To make my morning even better, I got called into my boss's office over  the title of a breast cancer fund raiser called Jammin for Jugs.  He had received an email from someone saying that they were deeply offended by the name. To which I had to explain to him that I was the brainchild of.  I  had to say the word JUGS to my boss. Which is surprisingly super awkward especially when my own jugs were at his eye level. And in defending my name choice, I had to say that I saw other campaigns using the words Ta-Ta's, boobs and boobies.  Nothing could create more discomfort in a working environment and after that he said I could go.

I am not offended very easily, but apparently I have an enormous capacity for offense.  I would never mean to offend anyone on purpose. People seem to like to place blame and to put me in the hot seat. Which is fine with me,  as a temperature representative I can take the heat. Besides,  I'm always cold anyway.