Posted in College, Insight, Mother to Crone, Sexuality, Teens, Twenty-something, Violence in the home, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

My son. My son.

I feel a chill come over me each time a man and especially a woman dares to say:

“Aren’t you worried about some girl ruining your son’s life?”

After the chill, I feel grief.
After the grief, anger.
After the anger, despair.

My mind flashes on RAINN’s statistic:

“Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 8 minutes, that victim is a child.”

Do my friends mean to suggest that my job as a mother is to turn away from girls who have for centuries been sexually assaulted in fear of some hypothetical accusation against my son in the future? (A statistically negligible one at that.)

What also chills me is this other well-meaning admonition:

“Teach your sons not to rape.”

I’ve got to say… I’ve raised two boys and I’ve skipped that one.

The idea that I would have to “teach” my boys not to assault another human being just because that being is female is appalling.

This is a close second to:

“Teach your sons to respect women.”

“Respect women,” is something I’ve never said to my boys, but you can be sure it was everywhere implied. Because women. Are human beings.

It’s the little things.

My boys were raised in a home that practices boundaries and respect, kindness and consideration, anger and connection.

As they came of age, we let them know that their relationship with me had to change in some ways. Though I would always be their mother, I was also a woman, and they were becoming men. Given the difference of size and strength between us and given the history of what it is to be female in a society that perpetuates inequity, my boys would have to be even more mindful of any physical expressions of frustration, anger and persistence in my proximity.

We practiced this. I reminded them. Over time I shared some of the experiences of what it was to grow up female so that they might be more aware and sensitive to the adult gender dynamic between us and between them and women in the world even perhaps if they were innocent of any harm.

All along, since they were very small, we practiced responding to and respecting: No.

If they said, “No,” to tickling, we stopped, no matter how much fun we’d been having.

If they said, “No,” to more kisses or hugs, or to kissing or hugging a friend or relative, we allowed for that.

If they said, “No,” to an experience that made them uncomfortable, we listened, even when it was awkward, say with a doctor or other authority figure.

Violence was neither a form of discipline or a form of entertainment welcomed in our home.
Killing was not a game celebrated.
Degradation was not a source of enjoyment.
Trash talk was a chore.

The older of our two boys was not permitted to physically intimidate or violate the boundaries of the younger brother; and the younger, in turn, learned to reciprocate.

If the day comes that “some woman” accuses one of my beloved boys of rape, I will be horrified, not because my boys were always “good boys” or “played sports” or “studied hard” or “worked their tails off” (all of which they do) and not because “I taught them better,” but because to violate another in this way is one of the most trauma-inducing acts of violence known.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine: “Rape is about four times more likely to result in diagnosable PTSD than combat.” (The Guardian)

The odds, however, for “ruined lives” have long worked in favor of my sons. Not because they have been raised in a responsive and disciplined home without violence. Not because we engaged in a consciousness practice that allowed us to feel and express emotions, including anger, as well as monitor and modulate those emotions. But far and beyond because my children had the good fortune to be born male (not to mention white, educated and middle class.)

Perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to go to jail or prison than other criminals. “Only 6 out of every 1,000 do.” (RAINN)

I love my sons with all my heart and respect the men they have become, but it is the humanity of your daughters that most concerns me and which I endeavor, along with my sons, to project.

We, my friends, are a family of feminists, which is to say, we aspire to uphold the human rights of all, particularly those whose basic dignity has been threatened for so long.

~

My sons and husband join me each year as NGO representative at the annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) with a shoutout to the revolutionary work of MenCare.)

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Posted in Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Sexuality, Teens, Tweens, Underage Drinking & more

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

Posted in Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Sexuality, Takes a Village, Teens, Underage Drinking & more

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

Posted in Insight, Sexuality

Not Rape, but not right

I was 16 when I met Richie at the restaurant on the water where I was a junior hostess and he a busboy.

Richie was quiet, and soon to be handsome, and two years younger than me so it was safe to flirt and fan his adoration.

He was a summer kid so when September rolled around, he returned to wherever he lived while I remained at the shore and grew up.

A handful of years later, when I was the manager of the restaurant, our paths crossed again.

He was big and strong now, still quiet, and definitely handsome, but no longer “too young.”

We were at a gathering one night, circling each other as we drank and laughed with friends. It was a small apartment and so the party spilled into the bedroom which is where I had migrated with him.

One by one people left the room, and soon I found myself alone with Richie, standing in front of each other, as he leaned in for a kiss.

Vallotton/detail, visipix.com

It was our first kiss. And it was weird. Like some kind of time warp. (How had we become adults, let alone peers?)

But there was something else.

A prickling shot up my neck.

Richie was leaning in too hard.

He was too quiet.

(Too drunk.)

I glanced out into the livingroom and into the kitchen and my stomach turned. (When had everyone left?)

Like a football player, Richie began driving me toward the bed.

I tried a joke to shift the mood, but the Richie I knew wasn’t there.

I felt my stomach turn. If I didn’t think of something fast, I was about to be… raped?

“Not here, let’s go to my place,” I said, hoping to wake him from the spell.

It worked.

Richie stumbled into my car and rode with me to my apartment; climbed the stairs, and got into my bed.

Whoever he had been at the party was gone; and now he was only generous and gentle.

But I felt dirty.

I’d never felt like that before.

Afterward, I slipped on what was once my mother’s silk nightgown (the one my grandmother gave her to wear in the hospital after my birth.)

I stepped out onto my small porch and sat down in the rain until it soaked me through.

Richie came out looking for me. “Is everything okay?” he said.

“I’m fine,” I said, attempting a smile.

25 years have passed since that night, and I can still feel the rain on my skin, and the humiliation in my bones.

~

Do you ever wonder what makes you write something, all of the sudden, that happened long ago? And then you see this CLICK HERE. And you know. We’re all connected.

~

Click here for my blog on women’s voices.

Click here for my blog on women & the mystery.

Posted in Mid-Life Mama, Nuts & Bolts, Sexuality, Teens, Tweens

Parents PRIVACY!

Sarah from

get born magazine

posted this query on facebook today:

I always scoffed at the idea of the parents’ bedroom being “sacred space, but as my kids grow, they get better at invading every facet of my life. I find that I need a retreat more and more. My solution has been to thoroughly clean my bedroom – removing all the kid paraphernalia – and lock my bedroom door whenever I haven’t invited the kids in. How have you created a private space in your life? Or have you?!

I direct readers to my marriage blog where I answer this question for my husband and me~

Enter Here:

(no kids allowed)

Mustache Time!

Kelly Salasin, February 2011

Posted in Fragile Life, Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Sexuality, Teens

Cool Mom (NOT!)

While I generally do not wear my heart on my sleeve, I’m definitely not the “cool” mom that I thought I would be.

My own mother ran “cool.”  I only saw her flinch–twice.  The second time was when I went back to college after Christmas break.   She stood there on the lawn with my young sisters in each hand.  I think she might have been crying.  Maybe it wasn’t about me.  Maybe she wanted to leave too.

My own son just finished his freshman year–at high school.  All along, I’ve enjoyed witnessing his growth–even those terrible twos–and even the turbulent tweens (most of the time.)

Modersohn (visipix.com)

As an added bonus to each new stage of his development is my gain of greater independence. (That’s a good thing for a mom who needs lots of time for thinking her own thoughts.)

But even an independence-loving mom like myself isn’t immune to the pangs of separation. Even if my brain says that it’s a beautiful thing to watch my son grow up, my body has its own interpretation–and my body apparently doesn’t know how to play it “cool.”

Boecklin/detail/visipix.com)

Like the other night when I witnessed my 15 year old move in toward a girl for the first time.

She was seated on a chair, and he sat down on the arm beside her–and then, (and this part was in slow motion) I watched him tilt his shoulder toward hers so that their bodies brushed as his arm dropped alongside her back.

This physical expression of affection blossomed from innocent days of swimming and tennis and talking (and in between, Facebooking.)  It was a nice thing.  It was sweet.  It was good.

Then why did my spine recoil?  Why did my face contort? Why did my breath catch?  And why did I so transparently shudder, turning away to steady myself, that I caught the attention of her uncle who observed my whole internal drama which was meant to be private?

Schiele (visipix.com)

Not “cool.”  Not cool at all.

And now I understand:

The mind, in its linear fashion, can appreciate change–but the body is timeless inside.

That 15 year old young man is still the baby that grew within, and the infant who suckled at my breast, and the boy who held my hand and beamed up at my eyes–promising to live with me forever.

This folding of time makes me dizzy.

Dizzy and transparent.

And that’s so not cool.

Kelly Salasin

Posted in Insight, Sexuality, Teens

Organic Sex

Volta/detail/vispix.com

I hear lots of talk about boys and pornography and the “naturalness” of curiosity. I like “natural” things.  But I’m not sure that sex on the internet or in a magazine constitutes “natural.”

It’s a funny thing for a “mother” to say, but I want my son to enjoy sex. I really do.  How could I not want him to embrace the pure pleasure of love making?

But I think the use of pornography interrupts the “organic” process of his sexuality.  It installs “ideas” of sex before the “real” thing can naturally unfold–forever corrupting his experience.

Forever is a strong word. But I have proof.  I myself followed my “natural” teen curiosity to places like Penthouse and Playboy.  (Thanks to uncles and fathers and bathroom reading and piles under beds.)

I didn’t understand the attraction to photo spreads of a woman’s spread, but I did like the stories. No, not the “articles,” but the erotic letter column.   And they drove me to place “story” above “presence” when it came to my own unfolding sexuality.

It took years, 20 to be exact, before that artificial fertilizer was chelated from the garden of my lovemaking.

I can’t imagine what it takes to chelate what is available now on the Internet.  And I can only imagine how far the toxins spread–deep into the well waters of our birthright.

I give my sister credit for describing sexuality as “organic.” We were talking about teens and porn, and she said that it was important for young people to find their own way to sexual expression rather than have it defined on the outside–a cart before the horse kind of thing.

“Later, it can be used it to spice things up,” she suggested.

visipix.com

But I don’t agree. I think “artifical” is always “artificial.” It doesn’t stem from the clear waters of presence or love, or the witness to beauty and the creativity that swells from pure desire.

I know more than one grown man who was forced to yank himself away from the addiction of pornography.  (Wives whisper these secrets to each other.)

“Like any delight, it’s a slippery slope,” I say to my son, referring to life’s pleasures: sex, alcohol, food, drugs, money. Just a blink of an eye and what you were using for delight begins to use you.  “Everyone is tempted by what’s available on the Internet,” I tell him. “Even moms.”

I’ve been talking to my son about porn since he was eleven–when access to the Web trickled into his life.  But recently, as he approaches 15 and we rise from dial-up to DSL,  I took the conversation a step further.

I’d rather you have

real sex

with a real girl

than use pornography.

This statement was a shock to both of us–as I have long claimed (somewhat seriously) that my son couldn’t date until he’s 18.

But that’s how important the gift of his sexuality is–that I’d rather he express it prematurely, then feed it artificially  (though I still hope he waits as long as possible to insure the fullest expression of his desire.)

Rodin/detail/vispix.com

So join me, will you, in keeping sex organic–not just for our teen sons and daughters, but for ourselves and our spirits and the “natural” gift of making love.

(Link to my marriage blog and its sister post: Organic Love.)