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, Mother to Crone

the daughter i always had

On Mothers Day, I posted an old photo of my two sons with this caption:

M-iraculous
O-ffering of
T-ender
H-eart
E-nergy
R-ealized

Which inspired me to post a followup photo of my daughter.


With this caption:

My daughter~my lila~my play of consciousness~ready for another mother-daughter adventure, in our ever-unfolding dance of devotion, which took root in 2012, a dozen years after my youngest son was born and which will soon be light enough to fly!

Posted in Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Mother to Crone, Twenty-something

Companion

Lately, my sons have refused invitations or eagerly accepted them but then not followed through, while simultaneously (along with their father) they make increasingly unconscious demands on my time and energy; so that yesterday, I found myself walking to the pond, feeling sorry for myself, absent of the sweet company I so desired/deserved; and these thoughts continued with me down the road, across the brook, up the hill and down the path through the woods to the water’s grassy edge, where they slipped away with asana under the morning sun, until I found myself supine on the dock in a gentle spinal twist, looking up at the needles of a tall pine with whom I’ve communed for so many years–through so many seasons of my life–and hers–ice storms and snow storms and early springs and fair autumns (skipping high summer when the campers are here)–And in that moment I felt the steady friendship of her branches extended toward me and the strength of her deep roots sustaining our connection, and I realized how I would never be alone, not really, even when both boys are gone; and I thought about how often men forsake not only the women in their lives, but the earth, and how that brings women and the earth closer together, and aren’t we better for it; and then, something else:

Don’t I forsake Her too…

Posted in Legacy, Mid-Life Mama

Summer’s passing…


I consider it part of my parting duty to impart beach culture to my mountain grown sons.

Lose the hikers.
Let the hair become wild with humidity.
Get sand… everywhere.
Let it stay.
Smell the air.
Feel the spray.
Sample slices until you find the best pizza.
Welcome the fog. The rain. Let it all be one.
Thick hoodies. Leisurely breakfasts. Coffee. Music. Chaos.
Beach chairs. Flip flops. Fudge.
Salt water taffy. Beer bottles. Bar flies. Bare feet. Sunburn.
Shellfish. Sandcastles. Donuts. Surf shops.
Waves. Seagulls. Lifeguards. Sunsets.
Salt. Sea.
Devotion. Sensuality.
Creation. Myth.
Belonging. Return.
Devotion.
Womb.

Posted in College, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

What’s Next?

My oldest son turns 18 today so this becomes my first post in a brand new chapter of posts on the Empty(ing) Nest Diary.

Photo from his first vacation. Without us.
Photo from his first vacation. Without us.

Only I don’t know what to call this chapter…

Parenting Adults

That seems misdirected.

Adult Children

Ominous.

????

It’s odd to think that the seed for this Empty(ing) Nest blog was planted in the hours after my son was born when I reached down in the shower to wrap my arms around a hollow belly.

A month later, I realized the immensity of the separation that stretched out before us.

But those moments of prescience were obscured by years, and months, and days, and hours–of devotion and attention and connection–and BIG LOVE.

This morning, the birthday boy and his girlfriend read through the tiny hand-bound book of quotes that I recorded from the mouth of that preschooler who heads to college next week.

“Wow, parenting a teenager must be awful!” my son said.

“What do you mean?” I asked, feigning confusion.

“It sounds like I really liked you when I was little.”

“Yep,” I said.

He took his girlfriend’s hand and headed up the stairs, and I put on some blues…

The thrill is gone

The thrill is gone away for good…

Free, free, free now baby…

I’m free for good.

Now that’s it all over,

All I can do is wish you well.

Who knew that the blues could speak to mothers, but they do…

I tried to get a head start on this empty nest thing years ago when my son first entered adolescence. I thought if I wrote about it, ahead of it all,  it would be easier, like having an epidural.  But 47 posts on Teens later, I still feel the pain of this impending separation.

I feel it when I shop for his toiletries. I feel it when I kiss him goodnight. I feel it when I look at his younger brother, who has just turned 13 himself.

It’s too early to pour a glass of chardonnay so I turn toward the issue of laundry. My 18 year old’s laundry. At college.

For days now, I’ve been plagued with worry…

What kind of laundry basket should he have at school?

What would serve as an inviting receptacle, and also a means of transport to the laundry room, and then back again, folded, to be placed in drawers?

This preoccupation of mine is odd for so many reasons, but mainly because:

I stopped doing my son’s laundry when he was 5,

and because my son currently leaves his clothes strewn across the floor,

washes them only when he needs underwear,

(or when he can’t afford to buy any more shirts,)

and then leaves his clean laundry in the washer–for hours,

followed by the dryer–for days,

Until it is coaxed along by strident parental pleas,

after which he leaves it in the laundry basket,

Until someone else needs the basket,

and grumbling, dumps the laundry on his bed,

Where it Remains…

Until it slides back onto the floor

Whence it came.

“Why don’t we wait until I get there and see what I works?” my son says.

He was always practical like this, even as a toddler. (It’s annoying.)

I’ll never forget the first time he called me on my parental misguided-ness:

Why do you want to yell about sneakers?

I hear the keys jingle by the door, so I stop him to ask:

“Where are you off to?”

“To get a lottery ticket,” he says.

I join in on brainstorming a list of all the other things he can in town now that he’s 18:

Buy cigars

Shop at  Life’s Little Luxuries

Enter the adult section of the video store

Be charged as adult for a crime

“I should have done something bad yesterday when I was still 17,” he said.

“Don’t forget to vote,” I add, as he heads out the door.

As much as I’ve loved this kid, I don’t want to Parent an Adult or know an Adult Child; so I think I’ll stay open to what this new chapter brings.

Kelly Salasin, August 15, 2013

Note: This is the first post in the “What’s Next?” Category.

Posted in Holidays, Quotes 2 Inspire

Mothers Day Proclamation 1870

This original Mothers Day Proclamation from 1870 in Boston is particularly poignant for mothers of sons.

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice
.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

by Julia Ward Howe