TMI

open clip. art.com by johnny_automatic

Hey Mom, Look at those cats, my son says, pointing to the front porch of an old apartment building in downtown Brattleboro. 

I take a quick look and reach toward his hand to cross the street. We’re rushing  to get to a concert.

How many cats do you see? he asks.

Annoyed, I look back and see three.

I thought there were only two, he explains. Because two of them are connected. What ARE they doing, Mom?

I take another look and notice that one is humping another–right there on the steps in broad daylight in front of my 11 year old (and another cat.)

Um… they’re… they’re… mating, I say.

Right there? he asks.

I know, right? I say; and then I yell: “Hey, get a room!” masking my own discomfort.

“Or at least go under the stairs!” my son bellows.

I smile. These kind of open dialogues with my boys make me happy. Sometimes, I’m taken off guard by their questions, but I stay ahead of them by choosing candidness, especially when it’s uncomfortable. I love it when they can hang in there with me instead of clamming up. It’s promising for our future.

That said, things are getting a bit stickier now that my oldest is 16. The other night, he and his dad were commenting on a friend’s unequal relationship; and I blurted out: What do you two know? Maybe she gives him blow jobs every night!

This was risque, even for me, but I wanted to stop them in their tracks. My husband quickly ducked into the bedroom to avoid any follow up, but not so my son. He just as quickly quipped back: That’s really shallow Mom. Maybe he wants more than that. Maybe he’s looking for a commitment.

I was tickled. Look at that. I can’t even embarrass my son any more. He hangs right in there and dishes it back.

I went to sleep that night proud.

And concerned.

Just a few days later, my teenager turned the tables on me when I asked about the dance.

What kind of dancing? I said.

The grind, he answered.

The WHAT? I asked.

You know, the grind.

You?

Everyone Mom.

But not you?

Yes, Mom, me.

Now it was my turn to turn away. I sputtered and flushed and then threatened to send him to the nearest Christian school. It’s all I could think about for the rest of the night.

Look who has the upper hand with openness now, I thought; and look who taught him.

Kelly Salasin, February 2012

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On Privacy

Vincent van Gogh, vispix.com

“Will my kids be safe?” a friend asks about beginning to blog.

I consider the age of her children. “I think the greater threat to children is not speaking up,” I say.

Yesterday, I read a piece on the Huffington Post by a highschool classmate of my son’s.  Margaret addressed our culture’s current obsession with “sharing.” Her point was well made, but I’m happy to see the pendulum shift away from secrecy. No doubt discretion is needed as this clear-headed writer suggests, but I think this rocking into the openness is a necessary step.

I grew up in an alcoholic family where the drinking wasn’t kept secret. My father told me that my mother had a disease. We talked about–what it looked like; what we could or couldn’t do to help. My father was the only one who would talk about it.

When someone got seriously sick, we talked about that too; and when the neighbor’s teenage daughter attempted suicide, my dad told me how; because I asked. As a physician, he had been the first on the scene.

My father also sat me down to talk to me about cigarettes–told me that he and my mother hadn’t known of their risks when they started smoking. He said that I could smoke. At home. In front of him. I would pester my mother for puffs, but I never started, though she died from never stopping.

I talk to my own sons in this same candid way–as things come up, or when they ask, or when I can tell the time is right. I include that which my father left out–sexuality.

Once I became a teenager myself, my father stopped talking, at least about the gritty things that I was facing in my day to day:

My mother’s  depression.

My emerging sexuality.

My exposure to alcohol and drugs.

Maybe he didn’t know how.

It’s not surprising. Most parents don’t.  How would we know?

Which is why I blog about the conversations I have with my boys. As a lifelong educator and writer and a life lover, I want others to have an example of what an uncomfortable or solution-less real-life conversation with a teenager looks like.

And I want to hear back from my friends and readers; because parenting a teen is life-defining work, and working on it in the dark isn’t nearly as rich as stretching it out in the light together.

So my opinion is that privacy is over-rated. I prefer transparency. For not only does that allow others to learn or differentiate or improve upon what is offered, it also releases the drama of “story.”

For what is essential can’t be taken away from us by sharing. Our being-ness doesn’t get robbed on a blog.  Our life’s details and woes are simply garments.

Does that mean that I think everyone should strip themselves of story for others? No. Not unless that’s your calling.

There is a conundrum however in that calling–in that the fibers of my own drama are intimately woven into the stories of those who are closest to me–like my sons; and those who grew old with me–like my friends and siblings; and those who loved me first–like my parents and aunts and uncles and boyfriends.

They may not want to disrobe with me, no matter how far apart our threads have become.

Which brings me to a line my late grandfather used to say, “When it’s your time, it’s your time; but what if it’s the pilot’s time?”

Kelly Salasin, last day of November, 2011

Do All Frisbee Players Smoke Pot?

“It’s an entry drug,” my friend says when I tell her that my son wants to join the frisbee team.

“I know, right?” I say. “That worries me.”

To my son, I say, “Great. Just don’t become one of those stoners who says ‘dude’ all the time.”

Can I say that? It’s probably wrong to use the label “stoners,” but my son smiles knowingly.

Frisbee wasn’t a team thing when I was a kid. It was something you did on the beach in the soft sand where you burned your soles. I didn’t play. I could never get the hang of throwing it right, let alone catching it.

By the time I was a young adult, I met a guy who played on a team out in “Cali.” Manny wore a gold frisbee charm around his neck and was always smiling. He was a great guy, warm and friendly, and very cool; but even though he was in his twenties he rode a bike around our resort beach town. You know what that means, don’t you: D.W.I. or D.U.I.–Depending on your state. (Are there other acronyms for “I loss my license for driving under the influence?”)

The other stoners I knew always had squinty eyes and the munchies and not much mojo. They listened to Neil Young or Bob Dylan for hours on end; which later became video games.

I know. I’m being judgmental. I only inhaled a few times in my entire youthful abandon, and it never caught on for me so I’m prejudiced against it. And I’m going to catch crap about it because I keep moving to places where it seems like everyone lights up. In Steamboat, even the lawyers were puffing on their way up the mountain in the Gondola; and in Vermont… don’t get me started.

Pot smoking seems to be an accepted right of passage here. “Make sure you tell your kids to buy locally grown weed,” the other mothers say.

“That’s what their cabin is for,” say the dads about the structures their sons build to have a place of their own.

“Be the frisbee player who doesn’t smoke pot,” I say to my son.

“Don’t write about me anymore,” he says. Kids are starting to read this stuff.”

“That’s great. Give me five.”

“I’m not giving you five for that Mom.”

My son, who shall remain nameless to protect his separate identity, goes on to tell me that not all frisbee players smoke pot, and then adds a qualifier, “probably not.”

He tells me that it’s becoming a serious college sport, and that my stereotypes taint it.

Thus in exchange for my disdain, I’ll offer a really cool link–all about the history of the frisbee–and how the game Ultimate was invented in–New Jersey–where I met that guy not really named Manfred.

(ps. Manfred’s name was changed to protect his lack of innocence.)

Kelly Salasin, November 2011

To join the conversation about substance use and parenting teens, comment below, or click here for more from myself, my nameless son, and other readers.

(And Manfred, if you’re reading this, can I use your real name? It’s so you, and so much cooler than the one I made up; without any help from my son, I might add, who refused to offer me a stereotypical pot smoking, frisbee player name.)