I posted a blog on Saturday – a silly post – about how my son was finding lots of delight in his body and was somewhat inappropriately exhibiting himself. And it was funny. It is funny. A short while later, I was surfing Facebook. I don’t know why. I usually end up disgusted and sad and turning it off. Someone had posted a year-old link about that asshat Brock Turner. That post got me thinking – and no, this isn’t a post about Brock Turner, inappropriate sentencing, sexual assault, alcohol issues, or anything of the like. It’s about parenting in an era of Brock Turners, or, more specifically, an era of in-your-face social media and other all-access 24-hour no-holds-barred no-expectation-of-privacy-or-dignity “coverage” of absolutely f’ing everything.
I can remember last summer when the Brock Turner thing played out. There was this massive call-to-arms to parents everywhere to talk to your children. No male child should think he has a right to a woman’s body (duh). No woman should think this is ok (duh). That numerous studies had indicated that a huge percentage of women had somehow been harassed sexually and this was not ok. And y’all, it’s not. Obviously. But dammit we had to talk to our kids – lots of talks – serious talks – NOW.
The same kind of thing plays out now every time someone does something awful, whether the core issue is deemed one of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, who you voted for, if you eat GMO foods, or whether you prefer Charmin to Scott toilet paper. It’s all public. It’s smeared absolutely everywhere. And parents must have these important discussions or otherwise fail at parenting in every. Single. Case. If you don’t have these discussions with your children, you are perpetuating the problem!!!!!
Disclaimer here: I am by no means saying abuse for the above-referenced offenses should be tolerated. Just read on and see.
I am raising 2 kids – one female, one male. As such, I’ll get to experience both versions of puberty as a parent. I’ll get to help them navigate all of the above in some capacity or another. If my daughter is ever the victim of any kid being an ass to her for her gender, I expect her to gutter-stomp the offender – first intellectually and then physically if that is necessary. If I think my son is harassing a girl for being female he’ll be grounded until the door to his bedroom rots (What’s the half-life for oak?).
But y’all, when I was a kid (and no Paleozoic jokes, please), it was enough to be taught not to be an asshole – to be nice, polite, and respectful. And by damned, if you didn’t have anything nice to say, you sat on that shit until you got home and were by yourself. You kept unkind words to yourself, much less any other body part. I don’t remember my mom having to have discussions with me about every little thing. I just knew how to behave. I knew what was expected of me. It was not necessary for my mother to parse out every little meaning and sub-meaning and beat me over my wee head with it.
I encourage my kids to ask questions. We already have some pretty interesting discussions (vs. discussions). It all evolves relatively organically, in a way that’s driven by their curiosity. They ask -and subsequently learn – about things when they are ready to investigate it. We talk about why you can’t tie a 1/2″ piece of string into a bow, why the boy at camp last week only had one hand (and why hollering about it when I arrived for pick-up was not a kind thing to do), why some people don’t have enough to eat or a place to live, that some people go to church on Sundays and we don’t and that’s ok, and that babies grow in tummies, and all other manner of topics. In the middle three, the underlying message is that you shall always be kind – that people are people, no matter the circumstances. In short, thou shalt not be an asshole. Every unfortunate event in the news does not require justice meted out by Facebook, Twitter, and every other armchair judge/jury/psychologist. Never every unfortunate event needs to be a thing.
I guess that’s where my beef comes in. As a parent, I get so damn sick of the advice, no matter how well-intentioned. You know what? If I want to give my kids ice cream, or Red Dye # 89b, or a Happy Meal from time to time, that’s my business. It won’t make them assholes. If I find my kids kicking each other, they will both go to time out because they are being temporary assholes. I love that if one of my kids is hurting -physically or emotionally – that the other will forget whatever bullshit they were just kicking each other over and try to comfort their sibling.
I work full-time, raise 2 kids, run a household, and try to find a precious few moments to be a wife and an individual. I don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to pick up on every hot topic that social media dictates requires discussion. I want to enjoy my children as much as possible, dammit. I don’t want to browbeat them more than is absolutely required. I fuss at them about enough already. I want them to remember their mom was kind, if not a little crazy/intense from time to time, and taught them not to be assholes. That’s enough, as far as I’m concerned. Discussion terminated.