Monthly Archives: August 2013

Miley Cyrus, Slut Shaming, and The Confusion of Self Ownership

Dear Daughter,

As I write this the world around me is in an uproar about a young woman who dressed up in latex and danced with teddy bears and danced in some rather lewd ways using a baseball finger and a form of dancing called “Twerking”. I have a whole long list of reactions to this. And then a whole long list of reactions to the reactions of other people. And I also recognize that a letter to you about something which will likely be long forgotten by the time you’re all grown is probably a bit silly.

So I’m not going to write so much about Miley. I’m not going to write much about the man that she danced with or the type of dancing that she did. I’m not going to write about all these things that will be a distant part of a past that is not relevant to your “today”.

I’m going to write about “slut shaming” and all of the confusion of self ownership. About actions and reactions and about what happens when everyone feels like they have a say in what you do with your body, and what happens when you react to that in certain ways.

I’m far less bothered by what Miley did than I am with everyone’s reactions. I’m far less bothered by Miley’s clothing, Miley’s gyrations, Miley’s slutty behavior, Miley’s possible drug use, Miley’s this and Miley’s that than I am by all of the people who seem to feel that they have any right whatsoever to define who and what Miley should or should not be.

Honestly, I see a 20-something year old kid getting ripped apart by people for something that likely feels a lot like self ownership and rebellion. And I remember back to the days when I wanted to own myself because everyone around me claimed ownership over every. little. part. of. me. Every little part of the fact that I was female. Every little part of everyone around me.  Because fat people shouldn’t wear this, and skinny people shouldn’t wear that, and oh go on a diet you fat person you! And eat a cheeseburger so you won’t be so thin. And never with the stripes! But that’s too l0w-cut and that’s too prim. And that’s totally the wrong pair of shoes to wear with those jeans. And ohhhh he shouldn’t wear that type of bathing suit! And she should show off her body a bit more instead of hiding it away like it’s something to be ashamed of– I’d kill for that body! But not that other body because that’s just too much of a thing that I just said was good.

I rebelled by covering my body up with ridiculousness and random. And I looked ridiculous and random. And people responded to me as though I was ridiculous and random. Then I felt sad. And your daddy thought I dressed like a hobo so we didn’t end up together for a decade. Miss Miley seems to be rebelling by dressing up in latex and showing off her body and all of the expectations that people have about what “sexy” is, and taking it to the extreme into “trashy” for the same reason that I wore XXXL mens t-shirts from the goodwill when I was young. Because when everyone claims ownership of everyone’s body and actions around them.. It feels damned good to stand up and say “F*ck you, you don’t own me.”

I don’t think that Twerking and slutty clothes are any more who Miley is than Hobo was me. But I’m sure that it feels empowering. And everyone deserves to feel empowered. If this is the world that we live in where the only way some people can feel empowered is to do something that is so far out there that so many people feel like they have to have so many strong words… What type of world do we live in?

Daughter… No one owns you. But when you react instead of acting, then you’re not owning yourself. You’re handing over who you are to the people that say they own you.. Just as much as you would be if you were meek and demure and did everything that everyone said you should.

Maybe you’ll dress in baggy clothes because everyone says you shouldn’t. Do you really want to dress in baggy clothes, or do you just want to do it because they don’t own you? Maybe you’ll dress in clothes that people call slutty because you think it’s ridiculous that clothing is labeled that way and surely it’s your right to dress as Whorelike as you wish and that clothing doesn’t mean people have the right to treat you a certain way.  (And they don’t have the right. Which doesn’t mean that they’ll treat you any better.)

Some day you’ll probably mistake reaction for action. Maybe you’ll go slut. Maybe you’ll go hobo. And everyone around you will react to your reaction and look at you with questionmarks on their faces and wonder why you’re wasting your beauty and your talent and your “you” on such things.

And they’ll be right. Not for the reasons that they’re thinking — which are that their definition of you is the correct one. But because you’re giving up the chance to be YOU for the chance to react to their stupid over-reactions and misguided notions that they have any right at all to define you or anyone other than themselves.

It is my hope to raise you to know that no one owns you and that you own no one.

Miley’s actions are not something to be aghast at, nor are they something to be proud of and defend. They’re reactions. Because people think that they have the right to own other people. And people don’t want to be owned. And sometimes it feels like the only way out of being owned is by running screaming in the other direction.

I don’t own Miley. I don’t own you. No one owns Miley except for Miley.  I’m not going to react to Miley’s reaction to the world around her, because no one owns her except for herself. I have no right to a say in what she does. I have no right to a reaction. I have no right to tell her that she should just go on being Hannah Montana because *I* liked Hannah Montana better. I don’t own her. And neither does anyone else.  Certainly she’s not owned by Disney just because she was an actress in something that they produced. She’s not Hannah Montana. She’s Miley. And Miley gets to define who and what Miley is and wants to be and how she wants to experiment with her ownership of herself.

Miley is rebelling. If it was simply taken for granted that she owned herself, what would she have to rebel against?

Don’t waste your time reacting,  babygirl. That just gives them exactly what they want- control. Be you. And don’t mistake “doing the opposite of what they say” to be “you”. It’s not. Being you despite everything that they say- both compliance and defiance… That’s being you. Sifting the you out of the nonsense.. That’s being you. Owning every second of your  life and striving to be the things that you truly want to be, not simply reacting to the controlling nature of others.

It’s okay to say “I don’t like pink that much, I like red.” and it’s okay to say “I don’t want to be a lawyer, I want to be a doctor.” You don’t have to say “I dislike all of the colors and I’m dropping out of school because I’m tired of being told what to do.” You don’t have to act in the opposite way of the ways that people try to control you. You simply have to ignore their control and BE YOU, even if that means that you do things just slightly different from what they say you should be instead of declaring your independence by doing the exact opposite. You own you. Don’t forego being a poet because everyone defines you as a writer. Don’t forego being a veterinarian because everyone tries to tell you to be a doctor. Don’t forego you to be a hobo or a slut just because everyone tells you that you’re supposed to be some specific thing that feels alien to you. Make your changes, make your choices, and feel empowered by choosing YOU even if it’s just a little bit different from the version that they’d choose.

The one thing that I’m going to tell you is that you have no bloody right to try and own someone else. You don’t. Sorry. You have no right to talk trash about the girls in your class. You have no right to be aghast at the fat people or the thin people. You have no right to gossip about the wrong shoes. You own no one but you.

And you? No one… NO ONE.. No one but you owns you. You don’t have to react to their attempts at owning you, it’s okay to simply ignore what they have to say. Because They. Do. Not. Own. You.

<3 – Mama

Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD- Could ADHD Come From Attachment Parenting?

An article has been making the rounds on some AP forums and in the support groups that I run. It is actually a pretty awesome article that talks about why French kids don’t have ADHD at the same rates that kids in the USA do. Then it jumps off its tracks a bit and lumps in some attachment parenting practices along with things like over-medication and artificial coloring in foods.

(The article can be read here)

My biggest issue with this article is that it starts off by talking about HUGE GLARING DIFFERENCES in French and Americans- the way that ADHD is diagnosed and the way that it is treated. This is a HUGE difference. In France it’s approached as something that can be solved. In the USA it’s approached as something that must be medicated.

Then after going over this HUGE GLARING DIFFERENCE the article author jumps into “French parents are parent-led and use CIO and spanking”. She then goes on to conclude that the French parenting methods of CIO and spanking are the reason that French children are less likely to have ADHD.

Wait. People in the USA don’t use CIO and spank? Actually. Yes. They do. So why is it that our ADHD rates are so high?

This is what the article did:

A man walked into a bar. He ate a peanut butter sandwich, an apple and some potato chips. He died. You see, he had a peanut allergy.

Another man walked into a bar. He ate a peanut butter sandwich, an apple, potato chips and drank a beer. He didn’t die. He didn’t have a peanut allergy.

Let’s ignore the fact that the second man drank a beer (something different in the story) let’s also ignore the fact that he didn’t have a peanut allergy and focus on the fact that I love apples. I think apples are the healthiest thing in the world. I was raised eating apples. I’m proud of my apple eating culture. I think that if the first man had more apples he would still be alive.

Yeah. Uhm. Doesn’t work that way.

The author started off talking about what was different in the two cultures– and that part of the article is awesome. But then she ended by talking about cultural/parenting method superiority.

Kids in the USA eat more food coloring and preservatives.
Kids in the USA are in a different type of school environment.
Kids in the USA are exposed to far too much media

And doctors in the USA medicate before trying to find situational or dietary causes.

All of those things are HUGE differences.

Spanking isn’t. CIO isn’t. Those things are pretty rampant in our culture and have not done much to curb the ADHD epidemic.

Structure is definitely helpful, but structure can be had without spanking and CIO. And with young children an over-structured day can be just as harmful as an under structured day.

I Wear the Words of Others (Self Love and Self Loathing)

I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

Someone younger than me has said that she is old. And I will get no younger. The lines drawn on my face by my smiles and grins and the silly faces that I make? They’ll grow only deeper. I love them because they are a part of me, but I understand them through the context of that hatred that others express for similar things. Conflict.

Someone more toned than I has said that she is flabby. I hesitate to mention that the loose skin on my belly is backed with fat, because I know that there will be others who will wear my words just as I wear the words of others.

Teeth yellowed with coffee that keeps me awake enough to smile. Slight overbite, one tooth out of line along the bottom. A big birthmark on my leg, toenails that often show the unwashable remnants of the garden dirt and grass stains from gardening barefoot, as well as the black that remains from when my middle child broke my toe last year. Chicken thighs white where my shorts keep them covered. Legs that I hid for years under jeans before motherhood in the summer heat made me simply not care to hide myself anymore.

I see the skin that changes as I get older and I see myself growing into the body that my mother and my grandmother bemoaned when they and I were younger. The skin that older women spoke of when I was just nineteen and they wanted to travel back in time.

There’s almost an obligation to hate oneself in order to fit in. To recognize the elements of beauty that we see in others, but to obstinately refuse to mention anything but the downsides of ourselves. To only see our own flaws even if we focus mostly on the positives of those around us. There is an obligation that we feel to point out our own flaws when other people point out their flaws. Like a vicious cycle of self deprecation that we all jump on board with in the hopes of making others feel less alone with the self dislike that we all feel so lonely with.

The body that I live in is but one thing. It is a vehicle that carries me about a life that I live that I can fill with beautiful things. My non-manicured feet dig into the garden dirt as I plant living food that grows and that my children eat with joy and wonderment in the summer sun. My fingers tap out words that others have found comfort in. My face cracks open in a smile that tells my children exactly how much delight I find in their silly wonderfulness. And the core of me catches them up in fierce and happy hugs when they launch themselves into my arms.

We’re told at various points in time that we are beautiful, and then we’re told that we’re not and it’s this thing that becomes like a huge elephant in the room. Am I beautiful today? Am I worthwhile? Am I perfect? Do I need to suck on bleach-lined rubber in the hopes that my teeth will be whiter? Should I have my breasts cut open and pushed up? The fat sucked from my abdomen? Should I spend two hours in the gym instead of with my family? Do my toenails make me look fat?

There’s more to me than beauty and the question of if I’m beautiful or not. Beauty is an idea that others give and take away with the words they dress you up in before they strip you bare.

I’m trying to put fewer words out there so that my daughter will have fewer words to wear and so that she’ll be comfortable just standing there in her skin, naked of the self loathing of others. I want her to wear all the happy things that make her joyful.

I’m not so worried about my sons, men seem to be allowed to be defined by things other than the skin and clothes that they live in, or the extra weight they carry. I hope my sons will define themselves with many happy things.. My daughter, though? My wishes for her run deeper. I want her to have the things that I am trying to find for myself.

Your body, little one, is this strong and wonderful thing. It carries you places that you are curious about. It an expression of the things that you think and feel. It is the feet that hit the ground as you run, the hands that climb you up on rocks that make you taller. It is what carries your curious little mind under things and over things. It is the hands that let you explore everything that makes you wonder.

It is beautiful, yes. Because of the energy that you fill it up with. Not because of the picture that it paints in this fleeting moment of time.

Go ahead. Dress up. Work out. Dance in a club. Paint your face with bright colors. Wear shoes for no other reason than fun. Enjoy what you are on the outside. But don’t let it be all that you are. And don’t let the words that others give you to wear cast off the words that form who you are inside. Focus your life on your foundation and on the beams and rafters that make you withstand a hurricane or earthquake-strong. Then splash it with color that makes you happy, and plant your garden beautiful and brilliant rather than perfect.

Own yourself. And choose the words that you wear carefully. You wouldn’t take kindly to someone egging your house. Don’t take kindly to someone egging you.

Oh Child, You are Testing Me

Dear Kids,

You test me. You try my patience. More words that people say that I’ve instinctively pushed away because the meaning behind those words is generally “you are manipulating me. You are trying to see what you can get away with.” Those words drip in negativity and suggest strongly that I should not respond to your tears with anything that resembles softness or compassion.

You do test me, though. You test me to see if I am trustworthy and if I can handle all the hard stuff that life throws at us. You test me to see if you can come to me when you are hurting or upset. You test me to see if I will offer comfort or push you away. You test me to see if I can recognize the scale of your emotions as they fit within the experiences of your life rather than looking at them from the scale of mine. You’re testing me to see if I’m the type of person that you’ll talk to as a teenager without fear of being made to feel stupid when you’re simply inexperienced. You’re testing me to know if you can come to me with heartbreak, with stupid mistakes that you need help with as you live with the consequences.

Will I be the person to laugh at the dreams that you have and tick off the reasons why they are foolish? Will I talk to you about the steps to take to make things real?

Will I disown you? Hit you? Intimidate you? Pull you near and hug you close and whisper that I love you fiercely and you’ve made mistakes but that we all do, and thank goodness you trust me enough to come to me for help..?

I will do that, you know. I’ll share the stories of my own mistakes, I’ll reassure you that you are human and that I am human and that sometimes mistakes are made. I’ll let you know that regrets stick around forever, but that redemption can be found in making choices that change your course. I’ll trust you to make those wise choices, and when you do I will be so bloody proud of you, just as I am proud of you now when you trust me to help you meet your needs. Just as I am proud of you now when you trust me to help you deal with your strong emotions. Just as I am proud of you now when you come to me with the truth rather than hiding with it alone.

Oh child, you are testing me. And oh do I hope I pass your test.

 

My Mother’s Thoughts about WIO

My mom writes for a local publication back in my homestate. She just wrote this article for the week.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS
“Wait It Out”

Back as a very young child, I clearly remember having frightening dreams which would wake me, terrified, in the middle of the night. I would scream and cry, and my mother would rush in to quiet me down as my father would begin his loud even more frightening “I have to sleep! I have to get up for work tomorrow!” rant from in their bedroom. This terrified me even more and made me feel as if I was just in the way of my parents’ lives.

As a parent myself, I held my children “too much” according to my friends and family. I “gave in” to their crying when they were infants and even toddlers before they could explain their needs. I was “allowing them to rule me”. But who could just stand by while an innocent child was obviously upset and needing comfort? There is a good reason that the crying of a baby is disturbing to most of us… preservation of our species.

To this day I offer to hold babies when I hear them doing those heart wrenching sobbing cries in the super market basket as their mom shops or is attempting to corral an older child, or casually chatting with a friend.

My youngest child, Sarah, is the one of my three children who has seen fit to have children. Lisa and Tim are having fun being Auntie Lisa and Uncome Tim. (The first of the now three grandchildren, could not pronounce “uncle” so it has been uncome ever since.)

Sarah recently received a shipment of stretchy blue rubbery bracelets with “I Can Wait It Out” printed upon them in white letters, and this morning I saw one clearly on her wrist in a Face Book photograph of her holding a small watermelon out in her amazing garden. It got me thinking.

If you Google “Wait It Out”, her “Nurshable” site is the first you will see, and I encourage anyone who is expecting a baby in the family to check it out for many amazing insights and feedback from Sarah and other readers who are in the throes of new parenthood.

Of course, new parenthood is not the only time we need to realize that we are capable of waiting out some life situation in which there is nothing humanly possible we can do to change it or move it along faster. Life has become waiting in lines both figuratively and literally.

Many times we are challenged by just having to wait.

We all wait in different ways. If I have to do something during which there will be a wait, such as going to the registry or bringing someone to a doctor appointment, I tend to bring a book or paper and pen. Some bring electronic games or knitting to waiting events. I often use a time of waiting to practice chants or mantras silently, though I always have in the back of my mind that I could move to the front of the line should I begin to chant vigorously out LOUD! But then, I have seen some examples of frustrated screaming impatient folk hauled off by security… so I have refrained.

Having to wait is most often a good people watching opportunity as well.

It is also an opportune time for ghosts of past waiting situations to cloud our minds and stress us more than the actual wait itself. Ditto for the thoughts of a possible dire future which rile us up and make the waiting time seem even longer.

Life is full of little and sometimes seemingly much too big, times through which we must simply wait. Our only sensible option is to wait as gracefully and patiently as we are able. Of course, in some situations, there is the other option of just picking up and leaving, which is the best option for those in potentially dangerous or otherwise abusive situations who are waiting for the situation to resolve itself or for the mate or boss to stop the abuse.

Very young children don’t have the option of leaving, and so waiting it out with them is a way to help them learn how to wait and teach them that someone in the world does care about them. That they are valued and loved.

The fact is that in most situations “I CAN wait it out” is something we can all hold onto. We all have lived through the most horrible things imaginable, and we are still here to tell about it, many times all the better for having lived through whatever.

In the story of the Buddha, Siddhartha, there is a quote I repeat to myself at times of prolonged or uncomfortable waiting. “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.”

Waiting it out is taking the time to selflessly help another being get through a trying time. The very young, the ill and the very old all need someone to be with when they are waiting something out. Not easy when you are completely exhausted and know full well that if you just leave the area, you can fall so easily into the sleep you so desperately need.

But waiting it out is an act of love.

Spend My Day Wisely

You’re the taker-out-of-place-er of the things I’ve put-er in.
The funny little re-arranger of my almost everything.
You’re the un-doer of all the things I’ve neatly done,
fascinated with the order of each and every one.
A teacher of patience and often curiosity,
you slow me to the pace of the little things you see.
And when you’ve derailed my grown-up day,
I’m the learner of all the games you play.
I’m the sitter-downer on the floor,
the peekaboo peekaboo peekaboo once more.
The maker of your funny faces,
the getter-downer of fun things in high places.
My to-do list? Hah! Let it stay undone.
I’ll spend this day wisely on my little one.

Oh. So THAT is Why Moms Nurse Past a Year?

Dear Daughter,

You will be turning sixteen months old soon. You were just finishing up on a very typical nursing session for a sixteen month old, your eyes had fluttered closed and I had pulled out my cellphone to catch up on some random reading. Ironically as you nursed I came across some very wrong-headed things about breastfeeding past a year. Things written by someone who has clearly never breastfed past a year.

Your eyes popped back open with the first laugh. You were very amused when I started laughing so hard that you bounced up and down. You tried to stick your fingers into my sinuses, I grappled your hands away and so you stuck them in my eyeballs instead. This made me laugh harder. So you bit me. Something you haven’t done in a while, but the perfect timing of the bite made me laugh even harder and we giggled and snickered and snorted and even though you had no clue what I was laughing about your eyes crinkled up with mirth and glee.

Oh if only you know the strange things that others imagine to be a part of our thoughts. A long time ago back when your eldest brother ticked his way past that one year mark, I would not have been so amused. Today I am.

Today I know that I’ve nursed two children through until the weaning time that they chose for themselves, and that I’m nursing you through until the time that you choose as well. And I know beyond any possibility of doubt that the thoughts others imagine for me are so ridiculously wrong-headed that the only rational response is to laugh so hard that I can barely breathe.

Apparently I’m doing this for myself, for selfish reasons.

Don’t get me wrong.. I love breastfeeding you just as I love all of the care giving. Because it’s a part of your being little and I’m in no rush to rush you past this stage of life. But my lack of a rush has nothing to do with my own preferences and everything to do with wanting you to leave each stage behind as you have outgrown it rather than my picking some arbitrary end-date that has nothing to do with you. It is my surrender to the pace of childhood.

Breastfeeding is like anything else. It provides a chance to bond, but it is not bonding. It provides a chance for that rush of love, but it is not a rush of love. It is one of those things that comes moment by moment. Sometimes our eyes meet and there’s this deep connection. Heck, sometimes that happens when I’m changing your diaper and your eyes meet mine moments before you attempt to smear poop on my face. Or sometimes it happens when I’m buckling you into your car seat. Most often it happens during play. I wonder if playing with you is “selfish” too? It is my favorite thing, after all.

Nursing..

You choose to nurse, still. But as you nurse your body is distracted. You’re not interested in eye-gazing or making moments. You’re so dedicated to completing your task and getting back to life. You crawl all over me, bounce your butt in the air and hum while you nurse. You explore everything within reach and experiment with whether putting it all in your mouth will make nursing impossible.

This thing that supposedly I choose because I’m selfish and unwilling to let go of the sweet moments of infancy? It more closely resembles nursing a small litter of howler monkeys with ants in their pants. It’s about constant limit setting surrounding biting, absconding with my nipple as you are still latched on… Limit setting around not giving me a nose bleed with curious jabby fingers, and that eyes are not for poking. Teaching you over and over about gentle hands when your hands are practicing everything that they can do so that you can learn what “gentle” is through the process of elimination.

Do I hate it? Oh no. Absolutely not. I’m amused by it and by the things that you think of doing while you squirm and dance on my lap. I find the randomness to be hilarious and sweet. And sometimes you do settle down and your eyes search mine and you go quiet and serious and there’s a connection that I know I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

But it’s not why I nurse you still. That connection comes in many forms throughout our day.

The selfish things that I desire can fill a different sort of list. A full night of sleep. The ability to sleep in until noon. Finishing a book without interruption. All of the things that will come when you and your brothers are older. All of the things that I will happily put on hold until then.

Not this. This is simply gleeful surrender into the things that make up motherhood. Things that could possibly be unpleasant, but that are so short lived that they can be enjoyed right alongside diaper changes and 3AM baby parties that I would prefer not to RSVP to. Is this a selfish thing of mine? Oh. No. Not this.

I nurse you still because it is a need of yours. Because I understand that there is a natural age of weaning, and that it has not yet come for you. Because I care deeply and have put in the time and research to understand all of the different aspects of breastfeeding. Because I understand that this is healthy, nutritious, and good for your body. Because I know your immune system still hasn’t developed as much as mine and that the longer you nurse the healthier you will stay. I nurse you still because I trust your body to know its needs now in your infancy as I hope that it will as you grow and learn to make healthy choices.

I’m happy to do this, but I don’t do it because it makes me happy. There’s a difference. You and I, we come to this place those many times across the day not because I’m looking for something but because you’re meeting a need of yours. My  happiness in these moments is a choice that I make to surrender to these short-lived moments that pass us quickly by.

You, dear daughter.. You’ll wean on your own time and not on mine.

<3 Mama