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 Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Mother to Crone, New Mother, Nuts & Bolts

It all begins in the kitchen

“Wednesday is Anti-Procrastination Day,” and it still is, all these years later.

It began when I was a new mother, overwhelmed by keeping house, until exhausted by my own whining, I said:

“Kelly, you ran a classroom, a restaurant, a nonprofit, YOU can do this.”

And so even though housework did not deserve my best, especially as I had witnessed the unfair weight of it on my mothers & grandmothers, I set out to study the art and science of household management, as a matter of survival.

I created systems of sanity, engaging everyone in the household in routines that continue to this day. “I stayed home for the children not the house,” was my motto.

My sense was that this role was both sacrifice and blessing, but never an assignment to do everything alone. Along the way, a woman (and email subscription list) called FlyLady was an ally in staying the course, but this was long before I realized that housework was political.

Moral.

I hadn’t understood then that homemaking meant that a women’s brilliance was unavailable in other spaces where it is was so desperately needed. I hadn’t understood then that refusing to do everything myself was not only an act of self-preservation but a revolutionary act of consciousness.

Sharing housework with my family from the very beginning created increasing space for me to begin exploring other aspects of myself, which are still unfolding as my youngest prepares to fly from the nest.

During my first year at United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in 2012, I heard women from developing countries emphasize how much their voices were held back by an unfair share of caring for home and family.

This year women from these same regions expressed their surprise to find that #metoo was epidemic in our developed nation.

Equality, it appears, is far from being achieved, anywhere.

It begins in the home. In the bedroom. At the kitchen table.

It seeds a more just world,
For everyone.

Posted in Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, Parental Adolescence, Round Two, Teens, Wisdom of Youth

A LINE

I’m not sure if it’s #45 or #metoo or Menopause, but suddenly I have access to something I never had before and it’s something which I expend too easily like the first paycheck in my kid’s pocket.

“Don’t be a fucking idiot!”

A few weeks back, I spewed this at him.

(This, in a household, where I’ve long drawn a fierce line at: Shut up.)

Actually, a stream of sentences with fuck (highlighted in various forms) came out of my 54-year-old mouth, one after the other, none of which I could entirely recollect afterward–a sure sign of trance–but not one I’d so fully occupied before.

Anger.

Not just at the behavior at hand, or the accumulated attitude of his adolescent years or that combined with his older brother’s (and even their father’s) but all the ways that all women/mothers/wives are maligned for the same things for which we are relied upon.

“I’m sorry that I put that all on you,” I said to my son when he returned from hitting the speed bag in the basement.

But what I didn’t regret was the line that I had drawn, and that I will now draw forevermore, and which I appreciate that he also drew for me:

“We don’t talk to each other that way, Mom.”