the revolution: it starts when we start paying attention...

Can I tell you all a story? 

I mean of course I can, this is my blog, I can do whatever I damn well please. 

The other day I did something bad. I mean not BAD, bad. But if the scale is "I killed someone" on one end and "I ran over a squirrel" on the other, I would say it was somewhere in the middle. Although maybe that's not a good scale, because now you all probably think I killed something...

Let's start this again.

A few days ago, while on a lovely walk through the river valley with my little family, I did something I am not proud of. My actions and words in this instance made me realize how DEEPLY ingrained our biases are and how much work we all have to do DAILY, if not hourly, to consciously unteach all the innate {-isms} the live inside us. I unconsciously sent a message to my own children that has been sent to generations of girls and boys since time eternal: one of you matters more.

Here was the scene:

We were walking along under the changing autumn leaves, talking about regular things; who needs new snow boots, where we want to go for our next family vacation, silly memes the kid’s teacher had shown them. Somehow the conversation veered to holding hands and hugging. (Probably because their father and I like to hold hands when we are out walking - because physical touch is one of my “Love Languages” and I make sure he knows this and thus, holds my hand.) As it turns out, my son is very much like me, and physical affection is one of his love languages as well. 

In the course of our discussion, Eleven asked Nine for a hug and she said no to him, as she has done many times before. He asked a few more times, and again she said no. I could see how much her continued refusal was starting to hurt his feelings and I was starting to get frustrated with them both. And that is when I said to my daughter, "Oh come on, just give him a hug, you are being mean and hurting his feelings". 

Yes, I said that.

I made my son's feelings about not getting a hug, more important than my daughter's bodily autonomy and very clearly stated boundary setting. And, for an even bigger truth, it took me another few hours to realize what I had done and talk to them both about my mistake and why I was wrong.

I feel the need to share this little story for a couple of reasons.

One, no one is perfect, and as parents, we are going to mess up - OFTEN. The only way we get better at this parenting gig is admitting our mistakes, to ourselves and to our children, and learning from them. I had a talk with both my kids, individually, and then all of us together, about this incident and how I handled it. We talked about why what I said was wrong and how, going forward, we can respect everyone in these situations without compromising our own needs and boundaries, and without hurting anyone’s feelings.

Two, I'm telling you this because it is just one example of how deep our cultural and societal biases are ingrained in us, even those of us who think we are progressive and doing our best to raise a generation of feminist children. No matter how much we rail against the patriarchy and demand equality and march and vote and #timesup and #metoo, if we don't first change from within and recognize the ways we (often unconsciously) uphold the status quo, it is all for naught. Change HAS to start at home, and our children have to see us modelling the kind of behaviour we want to see in them for any of this to make a difference.

And three, because these past few weeks in the USA, we’ve seen the trajectory of what happens when boys and men’s feelings, their sense of entitlement, and their disregard for anyone but themselves and their personal and professional gratification is maintained as the preeminent bro-code of our patriarchal world.

Some of you may think I am making a giant leap from my son wanting a hug from my daughter, to Brett Kavanaugh assaulting Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when he was young and stupid, and regardless, assumes the US Supreme Court appointment is a God-given right he is entitled to, but I don’t believe I am.

Hear me out.

Boys don’t grow up and become entitled assholes just because. They do so because everything they are taught and exposed to from day one tells them they can be.

We tell cute little baby boys that they will have girls falling all over them for being little “heartbreakers”. From an early age, we show them via movies and TV shows the power of the mediocre white man and the women who will always be their supporting cast (Yeah, I am talking about you MAX, of Max & Ruby, and you too Caillou, you annoying little shit). We glorify violence against women and the myth of the dark, troubled superhero type. We have “blue” jobs and “pink” jobs in our homes. For fuck’s sake, some people teach boys that peeing sitting down is not MANLY, and we all know who cleans up that mess.

We use feminine words to demean men and think nothing of what it says of the value, or rather, lack thereof, that we place on women. A women who cries on the stand is emotional and irrational, a man who cries on the stand is brave and passionate. A boy who punches you, teases you, pulls your hair, snaps your bra, is just doing so because he likes you. You should feel flattered he is noticing you. Just give him a smile, a hug, a kiss, a blow job, let him grab you by the pussy, or, you know, you might hurt his feelings.

ENOUGH.

As a parent, a HUMAN BEING, I want better for my kids. I want them to FULLY understand consent and bodily autonomy, theirs and everyone else’s. I want them to see themselves as equals in all things. As parents, we’ve tried to do this from infancy. We teach proper names for body parts and they are in charge of their bodies. We have an open door/yes we can talk about this at the dinner table/#askusanything policy. Even (especially) when it’s weird, or deemed “inapporpriate” by some, or uncomfortable, and also something neither of us had growing up and yeah, we are literally flying by the seat of our pants (FBTSOOPP™️) parenting some days.

So, yes, this means that I will stop in the mall as we walk by lingerie stores with 12 foot posters of women in bras and panties and we will talk about the hyper-sexualization of women in advertising. Yes, it means that I will pause a movie, even a classic like Star Wars: the Empire Strikes Back when Han forcefully kisses Leia, and we will have a discussion about consent and why this kind of action is NOT OK. Yes, it means I don’t force my kids to kiss and hug friends and relatives at family gatherings. Yes, it means we’ve talked about Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey Ford a lot these past few weeks and what it all means. I do all of this as a parent in the year 2018, and also as a survivor of childhood sexual assault. I do so because I don’t want either my daughter or my son to be like me: a 46-year-old woman just now learning how to set boundaries for herself and enforce them unapologetically.

I also do these things because I have 46 years of systemic and intrinsic, cultural and sexual biases to deprogram from myself. It’s not an easy task, this unlearning of my own biased life lessons, while also learning/teaching new ones, but is crucial in our world today. We HAVE to do this, constantly, every day, in all that we do and say and model for our children, and all people with whom we have any kind of influence.

No one in their right mind wants to wake up thirty years from now and see either their daughter or their son in the positions that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford or Judge Brett Kavanaugh were this past week.

We have to do better for our children.

The first step to creating this brave new world, is admitting these cultural and sexual biases that exist in ourselves and actively work against them. It’s a process and it starts with the little things like the subtle messages we send our children with our words and actions in every day life.

We have to be vigilant with ourselves.

If we are not, I’ll just see you at the next round of “entitled man who thinks the world owes him everything” presidential election or supreme court confirmation or superstar athlete kid with his whole life ahead of him and god forbid we hold anyone accountable for their actions. And the girls and women affected by these actions will continue to be secondary to it all.

There have been a few more instances of personal boundary setting with my kids since our walk through the leaves and this conversation is far from over in our house. I am happy to report that they have come up with a special handshake that only they share to show their “love” for each other. I call it love, they cringe at the thought because - TWEENS, but hey, it’s a start.

 For them.

For them.

We can do this people.

We have to do this.

Please.

N~ 

Willow

My dog died. 

It sucks. 

I am so sad.

And lonely. 

And I know that may sound silly to some, but I work from home. When my kids and husband are gone for the day, it has always been Willow and me.

Me and Willow. 

Now it will be just me. 

I miss her begging for a bite of my breakfast bagel. 

I miss her big doggie sighs as she finally settled onto her bed for her morning nap. 

I miss her "dog sleep-barking and walking" while she slept and dreamt.

I miss how excited she would get the minute I picked up her leash and her silly dancing paws thing that she would do to show her enthusiasm for a walk with her mama. 

I miss how she used to wake me up with her disgusting doggie breath in my face and then jump up with her front paws on the bed and try to snuggle her head all the way under me.  

I miss how she loved popcorn almost as much as I do. 

I miss her beautiful mutt face. 

I miss my Willow. 

You get so used to this presence in your life. This soul that doesn't ask much from you other than love and who gives you so much of it in return, often more than you deserve. 

I hope we made the right choice for her. I hope she is walking and running and playing with all her doggie frens who passed over the bridge before her. I hope she has an unending supply of pizza crusts and apples.

I hope she knows how loved she was and how much she meant to me.

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Long have our shadows walked side by side in this life. 

Forever will she be in my heart. 

 Commissioned  Artwork by JC Little .

Commissioned Artwork by JC Little.

N~