Reflections–teaching kids about rape

I’ve been amazed and impressed this week with the discussion about the Steubenville rape case.

Yes, there is all the judgment of how the media has handled this story. I’m not talking about that.

I read 2 articles this week that spoke about going “all the way back” to the source. How do we stop this kind of event, how do we teach kids to stick up for another person, how should we function as members in society.

The first I read was Henry Rollins post. I like, and appreciate, how he calls attention to the two convicted boys being Offenders. That is what they are, they aren’t victims, they are Offenders that are being tried and prosecuted as our society sees fit. Sure, some wanted more time, some wanted a hand slap. Me? I’m super glad they have to register as sex offenders. Still – those boys, ALL of them, need to come to grips with the reality behind them and what to do next. I can only hope (and pray) that they learned why what they did was so wrong. On EVERY level. Every action they took – the rape, the pictures, the social, the joking and condemnation of the girl – was a horrible, reprehensible, sad display of common sense and humanity.

The second was a post by a mom of boys. The post is named – I am so fucking sick of teaching our daughters not to get raped. I think it’s right on. As a mother of a girl, I will have to tell her all those warning signs and tips to keep herself safe. It’s a necessity. I honestly don’t remember my mom ever having that conversation with me. I do remember watching people in high school and learning a lot on my own. I like that this mom talks about how respect and No Means No needs to be ingrained in every person. And another person calling out that those boys are responsible and accountable for their actions. They don’t deserve our pity. They deserve our sense of injustice and anger that it happened. They need to learn why what this did was so wrong. So horribly and disgustingly wrong. So sad….

I’ve seen a handful of others posted by friends on Facebook. There is so much discussion. I’m glad there is so much discussion.

Then yesterday, one that’s so close to home….

I’m on an alert list for any sex offenders moving into a certain radius of our neighborhood. It’s a frightening aspect of parenthood that I would rather plug my ears and scream LaLalaLaLA!!!!!

But that isn’t reality.

The reality is there are NINE registered sex offenders within a TWO MILE radius of my house. NINE!!!!! Within a TWO MILE radius!!!

On a normal day, that makes me incredibly sick to my stomach.

Yesterday, I received an alert of a newly registered sex offender. I hate that I get new alerts. I hate clicking on these links to see a picture of their face. I hate reading what they were committed of, thinking about what did they actually DO in the first place?! (think about that one, does it occur to you that maybe the actual act was worse than the conviction? I do….and some law enforcement officials will tell you to think about that too)

I was shocked. So shocked. So sickened, to click the link and see a young boy’s face staring back at me. Seriously – a boy. A now 13 year old boy. Convicted of “Rape of a child in the first degree”. Do you know what that means exactly? I do now:

RCW 9A.44.073

Rape of a child in the first degree.

(1) A person is guilty of rape of a child in the first degree when the person has sexual intercourse with another who is less than twelve years old and not married to the perpetrator and the perpetrator is at least twenty-four months older than the victim.
(2) Rape of a child in the first degree is a class A felony.

Oh my fucking GOD! This (now) 13 year old had sex with another child who at the time was LESS THAN 12!!  And 24 months younger than this boy!! (those are all ANDs, not ORs) So let’s say he was 12 when the rape happened. This other child was 10. TEN!!!!  Even if he was 13 at the time, this other child is still ONLY 11.

Now – granted – it is not lost on me that this boy and the other child may have had what they considered consensual sex. They might have. It is just as likely that it wasn’t consensual.

I applaud the parents of the other child. To go through and press charges against this (now) 13 year old. I can only imagine how hard it would be for them – how that might impact their own child, admitting it happened in their family, backlash from the community, etc. etc. etc.

I think it is a timely and perfect example of telling society, this is NOT ok! I will NOT stand for this!

Now this 13 year old boy has to live with the consequences. Forever.

We should stand up and demand the change to make it better, change to stop us from having the conversation and debate in the first place…. It’s not extreme, it is what is required!

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Today show thoughts–Teachers and Gun Training

A few months ago I started putting on the Today show while getting ready in the morning. Inevitably, kidlet gets up, crawls into my bed and starts to wake up with breakfast and one of her shows. Often times she sees a part of a story on Today. Most of the time, they are pretty tame and I’m not concerned (hello Golden Globe results!)  But sometimes, like today, there are heavy subjects.

She came into my room just as they did a story on a rise in teachers (in Texas specifically) going to gun training classes. I asked her to change the channel. Then I paused (story still in the background)  I asked her if she understood what they were talking about…

Yes, but why would teachers want a gun?

Well, some think they would feel safer and be able to protect their students if something terrible happened.

Huh.

Do you think teachers should have guns in the classroom

(she scoffs) I don’t think Mrs. S would want to have a gun!

She might not…

I find we are reaching an age with A that some topics in the news just can’t be avoided. How we sat down and told her about what happened at Sandy Hook before she went to a sleepover. How I sent a message to the parents with other kids at the party to let them know we were having that talk. That she didn’t quite understand why Norman and I couldn’t talk about it without crying.

I still want to protect her from heavy topics and would have preferred she not see the segment on Today this morning. But she did. So instead I want to have real conversations with her. I want to answer her questions. I want her to have information.

Besides that all – I still want to hold her and make all the  bad stuff go away. At least for a few more years to keep some level of innocence about her. That time is quickly slipping away from me. All I can do is prepare both of us for what’s next.

How We Treat Others

Last month, A’s school sponsored an assembly called Rachel’s Challenge. There were two session types, the K-4 grades had a discussion about kindness, how you should treat others, and how they can start their own chain reaction. The 5th & 6th graders saw a more graphic (if that is the right word) presentation that also talked about Columbine.

There was also a parent’s presentation that explained more about what our kids saw that day, and how we can support them to do the right thing. My understanding is what we saw was alike to the 5th/6th graders. I can see why it is tailored to grade levels. They showed video footage. We heard first-hand accounts of what happened that day, how now adults, then teenagers, were personally impacted, fearful and shocked by what happened in their community.

The story was much more about how Rachel lived her life before Columbine. How she cared and reached out to all people around her. You know the one, that kid that always invited the new student to their table at lunch. The kid that stuck up for everyone regardless of why they were being bullied, teased and picked on. The kid that was so sunshiny positive, my cynical pessimistic would fake gagging on the floor.

I was obviously not the Rachel in my high school.

Well, not sunshiny positive. There were times I stuck up for others. When I was a Senior (was it Senior year? I can’t honestly remember) David Toma came and talked to us about the danger of drugs. How that one decision could lead to a life of failure and despair. His stories were horrifying. The one that sticks in my mind were the new parents so high and paranoid, they literally put their baby in the microwave and turned it on. I can still remember where I was on the bleachers and the disturbingly graphic account he gave showing up on the scene as a police officer. Those kinds of stories don’t leave so easily.

Anyway – the school had counselors and all sorts of support options around the rest of the week. I remember being on the bus home and some kids started picking on this one particular boy. Because this boy went and talked to a counselor. They were poking fun at him and asking what was so important to talk to a counselor. I yelled at them, something along the lines You have no idea why he went, and it’s none of your business. You have no idea what is going on in his life that he needs to talk to someone. And you should leave him alone. This kid, we weren’t friends. We were friendly, but definitely didn’t travel in the same circles. The boys shut up, more mumbling under their breath probably saying things about me. But who cares.

Somewhere between 6th and 9th grade I grew a really thick skin. When I was in 6th grade I went into a brace for scoliosis. Just like Joan Cusack in 16 Candles.

I kid you not – I wore a Milwaukee brace and I kinda sorta related to Joan’s character in the movie. Except the part of hooking up with the exchange student. I had no hooking up when I wore the brace. I don’t think boys noticed me.

But the Mean Girls did.

There was one crowd of girls, I think 3 of them, maybe 2. I remember the Leader that would get up in my face. Super close. Uncomfortably close. She would say really awful things to me. About how ugly I was, how my brace made me a freak, how I would lose all my friends and no boy would ever want to date me. I would go home and cry. Every day. It was horrible.

After a few weeks, my parents found out. We had a family meeting and I remember my Dad being so angry. He wanted to call the principal. Get this girl, and her parents, into a room and Tell Her What’s Right and make her see what a horrible person she was and make her apologize. That made me cry even harder. I begged him to not call. I told him it would only get worse. I promised him it would only get worse. I don’t remember what else, if I said I would stay in during lunch or hang out with my friends somewhere else. I really don’t remember. The bullying continued. It even got worse. And then the school year was over.

So why am I going on this ugly trip down memory lane?

I recently finished reading Thirteen Reasons Why. The book was haunting. From the back cover:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

I could barely put this book down which says something, I’m such a slow reader. To hear the voice of a teen contemplating, and following through on suicide was too close to home. Not the suicide part, not at all. The torment and psychological drama. Too close to my own childhood dealing with Mean Girls, too close to what I see my 9-yr old, my 4th grader, dealing with already.

I kept thinking back to what I saw in the Rachel’s Challenge presentation. How those words can hit a teenager so hard. How that simple act of kindness, that to some doesn’t even feel like kindness, but how they live their life. To find the best in everyone. To see the positive intent. and believe the world could be a better place by creating a chain reaction.

My teen years are way behind me. To revisit them is only a lesson in how I survived and became stronger for any adversity I faced.

My kid is another story.

What sort of lesson I can teach her now, as a 9-yr old. Dealing with Mean Girls. In the 4th Grade. So much earlier than I ever dreamed of dealing with when I was in 6th, 7th or 8th grade. Junior High is the worst. I want her to have enough thick skin that this Mean Girl thing can blow over. That she can find her true friends that will stand by her, and stick up for her.

It is truly frightening to be a parent when there is so little we can actually control, or protect.

The best I can do now is prepare her for what lies ahead. To lead by example. Talk to her every day about how she is feeling and what she struggles with socially. To instill belief and faith that I’ll be there for her to listen and help her through the rough times. And celebrate the resulting success and happiness.

Mom “secrets”

I was at the gym this morning when I saw an up-coming Today story – What’s your deepest, darkest secret? Moms confess…  Today.com and Parenting.com surveyed 26,000 moms.  Mental note – go look that up online later…

So I read the article.

Uh…..nothing surprising. Really – any mom out there look at that and feel surprised by anything they said? Shocked at how many admitted to certain actions like medicating a child or using them as an excuse to get out of stuff?  Haven’t done the former, have done the latter. So what? I’ve sent a sick kid to daycare and I often want to be left alone. Are you judging me now? How about that I ponder the “Do Over” question?

So why am I writing about this? Besides shaking my head at the honest reality of it all?  Yes! It is so freeing to be able to say these kinds of things to my closest girlfriends (and I guess now the internets).  Blogs like dooce or All & Sundry have helped in laughing, crying or figuring out tips of my own in the whole parenting scheme. Or the ah yes I remember that moment…  Like at my 2-week post partum sobbing to my doctor that I didn’t want to be a mommy that day.

But those blogs didn’t exist when I was considering pregnancy – OK, they might have, but I wasn’t reading them. There was not a Loud Voice out there of Mommy Bloggers talking about the challenges and joys of parenthood. No one being totally honest and raw about what it meant to be a parent.

I remember coming back from maternity leave, Fall of 2003 and running into a pregnant co-worker in the cafeteria. She was in the happy pregnancy stage, no morning sickness, not physically uncomfortable, she was just joyous and bubbly. I was operating on about 4 hours of sleep.  She asked me how wonderful it was to be a parent and how excited I was to have a daughter. I looked at her straight in the eye and say “No one tells you how hard it is”, she smiles, “No really, there are not words to describe how HARD it is!” She gave a nervous laugh and walked away.  Months later after her maternity leave, she walks up to me with that wild-eyed new parent look, takes my hand and says something to the effect of, “You were SO right and I had no idea…there truly aren’t words…”

If you aren’t a parent – that may not have made sense to you.

I love my child. She is sharp, creative, caring, pretty and cunning. She is a force to be reckoned with now and will be until she leaves the nest for her own place. I love that she takes care of me when I’m ill, brings me art for my office, eager to share a dessert, read a book together and wants to cuddle from time to time. But sometimes….

sometimes….

sometimes….

….sometimes….

I just wish I could do it over.

July 2011 Monthly Quote

It’s been quite a while.  Quite!  I was thinking a few weeks ago (yes, that long) that I haven’t been keeping up with the new year’s resolutions.  Is this really news?  I supposed not, but this year I wanted to get back to writing notes, on all the stationary collecting in my desk.  I think the hand written letters are an art form that needs to be kept up in the world.  It meant so much to me growing up to have a pen pal.  So exciting to get notes with pictures or little tokens of love and friendship.  Recently, a college friend from Jersey was looking for a pen pal for her daughter.  I got her connected with someone out here is Washington.  I truly  hope the girls become friends and have that same love of letter writing and quirky local fare to send to each other. 

Live by

the Trinity

of what

is True,

Good, and

Beautiful

Alexandra Stoddard

It’s been a trying 2 weeks for me.  My ass has been kicked around by multiple illnesses.  Last week I had a fever for two days, slept most of that off.  A sore throat that turned out to be strep.  Another little health scare that has turned out to not be as serious as I had thought.  And now I have a head cold.  Frick.  Of course, going to 3 concerts this past week has not helped in my healing.  I think it’s why I have a head cold right now.

It certainly is a reminder to take care of myself.  More than working out or eating right.  I need to figure out how to not be so stressed out most of the time, or perhaps the more accurate way to describe it is not to be so forward focused on what needs to get done.  I haven’t been a manager for 5 1/2 years since I left my old job.  Learning to delegate was one of the more challenging aspects for me.  I’m not really in a role to delegate – but I’m not talking about work, I’m talking about home.

Mostly for the kid.  A few weeks ago she and I cleaned her room.  There was an expectation that she keep it up, within reason, as we promised to update her room.  The baby colors and artwork has served its purpose.  Now she is 8 and ready to move into her tween phase (goddess help us!).  She got a new stereo this week, a real one with actual speakers and docking station for her iTouch.  When it was set up this week I got all nostalgic for my first stereo.  Music has played such an important part of my life, although she won’t be laying on the floor looking at the LP sleeve and learning all the lyrics – it has been great to watch her this past week steal away to her room at night and listen to all sorts of music.  Norman gave her some Bowie, although I haven’t heard that coming out of the speakers yet.  I have heard Storm Large and a mix-CD she got at a birthday party 2 years ago.  And last night – she asked me for Black Eyed Peas!!  There is hope for her yet!  Granted, not sure the Peas are 8-yr old appropriate, but we are getting somewhere.

Anyway – my point is – as parents we need to be better about holding her to household chores.  Like – my goodness put your clean clothes away on Sunday!  Not Friday!  And put them away properly please, don’t just shove them in a drawer.  Oh, and make your bed, empty the dishwasher, feed the cat and water the plants.  That is not too much to ask of an 8-yr old.

I’ve been beating myself up about slacking on that, that I need to be better to hold her accountable.  She’s starting 3rd grade in the fall and needs to start contributing.  Some girlfriends and I were talking recently that kids don’t seem to be as afraid of their parents as when we grew up.  I don’t mean in an abusive way.  I mean that if we didn’t behave or do what expected – that there are consequences.  Like being grounded or TV taken away (in today’s world is that grounded, no Xbox or cell phones?!)  The one that got me every single time was having my stereo taken away.  If my offense was serious enough, I would lose my stereo for a week.  It killed me, I really got the point of what I had done wrong.  I learned my lesson.  I tried to do better.  I need to find that kind of meaningful thing for A – what is going to help teach the lesson so she tries to do better the next time.

I think, to start, we should make a chore chart this weekend.  And a promise statement about what is expected in the house, and any consequences if not upheld.  Yep…think I should go talk to Norman about that…

So – here’s to healing and taking the next steps for positive mental health!

No, it’s MINE!

I really should be working on a test plan right now.  My brain is so tired.  It needs a rest.  For like… a week.  But since that won’t be happening anytime soon, I’m taking 20 minutes now.  On that tired thing – yesterday afternoon I had to give myself an attitude adjustment.  Yesterday morning I had reached critical mass and was super crabby in two meetings and not very professional.  I don’t like that.  I want to act better than that.  And yes, I’m human and all blah blah blah.  Still, I feel bad I was bitchy and unreasonable for – oh – about 3 hours yesterday morning.

Wow! Am I hard on myself or what?!

The other night I was tucking A into bed.  She has a foot injury from last weekend and we’ve been on her to keep her foot elevated.  There was a pillow under the sheets to raise it up while she slept.  All the sheets were tangled up, books piled up, stuffies falling off the edge.  So I took hold of the sheet to straighten it out.  The pillow underneath – it is one of my 2 favorite pillows in the house.  That I keep on my bed.  It has a nice satin, paisley print on one side and brushed velvet on the other.  It’s cozy.  Pretty.  It’s mine.

So I took it and said something like “you know this is mommy’s right?”  Boy did that kid throw a fit (which, by the way, is a very common occurrence in our house lately)  She was screaming and crying at me, saying it’s not fair and you don’t share with me and it’s so TEAR-ible of me.  Blah blah blah.  Tucked her in and took my pillow with me!

I brought the pillow back into my room and threw it on the bed. 

I paused.

A wave of Horrible Mommy washed over me.  How selfish I was.  Shouldn’t I teach her to share by sharing myself?  Guilt – OH the (recovering) catholic guilt! 

I paused again.

Then I got really pissed.  So pissed that if I didn’t love that pillow so much I would have bashed it against the wall until it ripped open. 

WHY should I have to share with my kid just because I’m the Mommy?  Shouldn’t I also teach her that some things are sacred?  And no – I don’t have to provide you a reason why!  I’m the Mommy and I said so and you just need to deal with it (flashback moment). 

Now I don’t feel guilty at all that I took the pillow back.  It’s my pillow after all and I don’t want to share. 

I’m also going to take my crayons and go home while I’m at it. 

So there!!

Television and (my) Kids

Recently someone at work on a parenting list posted this article done by Canadian researchers that Toddler TV Linked to Low Math Scores.  There was a variety of responses from the parents.  Mostly along the lines of – OMG is this really news?!  As I’ve often said before on the more inane “scientific” research reports that are announced.  Granted, this is Microsoft so many parents often have a sense of superiority and snobbery to the rest of the planet of parents.  What?!  It’s true – so don’t you dare flame me! (and I didn’t say ALL parents)

One of the parents did an informal poll asking – how old are your kids, how much time do they watch TV, what shows do they watch.  OK – I’ll bite, I responded.  In case you all are curious – mine is 7, 1-2 hours a day.  I replied that she watches – Cyberchase, Fetch with/ Ruff Ruffman, Phineas & Ferb, Bindi the Jungle Girl, Fraggle Rock, How It’s Made, Food Network.  This doesn’t account for the time she watches movies (mostly on the weekend) and any iTouch/computer screen time.

I got the results this morning.

I had the oldest kids of the respondents.  People actually said their kids watches 10 minutes a day.  Or that they never watch shows, but the TV is on in the background all the time (um…that counts!)  I guess what surprises me is how defensive people are.  How quickly parents flip into this I Do The Right Thing Mode and truth or not, tell the answer they think people want to hear.  How the world will be SO much better for their kid because of how much and what they watch.

I don’t really have the same outlook.  Yes, I monitor how much A watches.  Yes, I have say in what she watches.  I don’t think TV is rotting her brain.  One of her top faves right now is Cyberchase.  She got a Cyberchase computer game for her birthday (which she loves).  If you don’t know Cyberchase – it’s a very logic/math based mystery solving show.  On the other side of television, once in a while she will watch The Fairly Odd Parents which I don’t think has much value at all.  Sure, it has a veiled message of values – but never my first choice.  I’d rather she watch Phineas & Ferb – those boys come up with the craziest creative ideas of “what to do today”, it’s funny and I enjoy watching it with her.

Guess what people!  My kid LOVES math! She excels at math! It’s easy for her (yes, tooting my own math-degreed horn)

I think about the shows my brother and I watched.  Sure, we had a lot of exposure to PBS and Nickelodeon.  Then there were the Smurfs, Care Bears, Speed Racer, Krofft Brothers, Animaniacs, etc etc etc!  We also were plastered in front of the TV every Saturday watching 3 hours of Bug Bunny.  If anything is going to rot your brain, it’s Bugs Bunny.  Apply today’s logic and the two of us should be insane, cross-dressing, carrot chomping, hot head deviants pushing people off of cliffs and carrying guns around shooting at anything that moves.

I turned out OK.

We cannot blame how our kids turn out based on television, xBox, iPad, computer time they have.  As parents, I feel we have a duty to monitor, make choices, and (probably most important) set boundaries on anything our kids are exposed to as they grow up.  Actually, most important is to engage with them and talk about “smart” viewing choices.  Explain why I won’t let her watch Hannah Montana because I don’t think Miley Cyrus is a good role model or the Little Mermaid because she gives up who she is for a man.  Sometimes I get that confused look, but A doesn’t push back on me.

I’m not even going to talk about the days the TV isn’t on at all, that’s another story for another time.  This one is about taking control of the television, engage with the kid, and remember that we turned out OK. 

Make smart choices, that’s all I ask.