parenting

I start with forgiveness

It’s been a while since I posted anything and instead of a Book Fridays post I wanted to take some time to sort through some thoughts and feelings I’ve been having. The past month has been challenging for me. My son is going through some phase wherein he is almost unbearable at times. He’s defiant, he refuses to use the potty, and bed time is a nightmare. I want to preface this by stating that I am not looking for advice. I understand the place where such advice comes from but I assure you that I have people and resources to turn to. Basically, if I want advice I ask for it. I am sharing this because I need to vent and because perhaps somebody out there is going through something similar and they need to know they are not alone. Whenever difficult things arise in our lives we tend to feel isolated. We always think that nobody else could possibly know what we are feeling. The truth is that we are never alone and most of our troubles have been experienced by others at some point.

Parenting is not easy. I know this. I think most people know this whether or not they have ever been around young children. It’s exhausting at times and very frustrating. Like anything we choose to do in life it has its highs and lows. There are days when my temper is hot and my fuse is short. I try to be self aware because I need to keep my emotions in check. It’s not always easy and there have been times when I’ve raised my voice or even yelled. There have been long days where I’ve been up until 3am because my son refuses to stay in his bed and after two hours of walking him back to his bed I give up and let him crawl into ours. I then wake up early to eat breakfast with my husband and because kids are evil Diego wakes up as soon as my husband is off to work and gleefully asks for something to eat. So much for catching forty winks.

At my lowest points I feel like a failure (something I’ve talked about before) and I start to question myself. It’s easy to shoulder blame. Diego isn’t potty trained because of me. Diego doesn’t sleep through the night in his own bed because of me. Diego makes a fuss about going to bed because of me. Logically, I know that kids often go through these periods of pushing boundaries and defying authority. I know that but I still sometimes feel like my worth as a person is tied to my success as a parent. I grade myself and award low marks.

In a few months this will all be nothing but a memory but right now it’s my life and it sucks. I know it will pass and I know this is not going to last forever. Knowing that offers little comfort to me. The frustrating thing about all of this is that I don’t know how long it will last. There is no schedule. Things change quickly and randomly.

What I have found helpful is to exercise forgiveness. I read a wonderful piece about writing by Daniel Jose Older that stated that you must start with forgiveness. I think it’s applicable to life in general. Start with forgiveness. I forgive myself for not being perfect, for falling short, for making mistakes, for being hard on myself. I forgive my son for being who he is, for inadvertently hurting me, driving me up the wall, robbing me of sleep, and making me eye that bottle of wine lustfully.

Whenever I demand too much for myself I fail. There are such things as unrealistic expectations that we place on ourselves. When we don’t meet them we write ourselves off as failures. Why bother anymore, right? Whether it’s writing, doing laundry, sticking to Whole30 (I just did Whole30 and plan to write about my experience) or simply getting through a list of chores loving ourselves enough to forgive is paramount. Understanding that falling short isn’t a shortcoming. It means that we got out there and we tried. It means that we put forth some effort. Even if you only got as far as lacing up your shoes you still DID something.

Celebrating small victories has been the foundation of my journey to managing my anxiety and it’s something that I’ve applied to other areas of my life. I try to devote a few minutes each day to thinking about what I’m grateful for and to let myself feel and mull things over. These moments of introspection and self meditation are important to me. It helps me to process. Most of the time I do this quietly in the shower, or while laying in bed long after the house has become quiet. Tonight I am doing here in this blog post.

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I am a failure.

How often do we feel this way? When things aren’t going my way or the way I think they should be going I feel like a failure. When I am at my lowest I become very critical of myself. This is true for many things in my life. My most recent “failure” has been potty training my son. Intellectually, I know that I have not failed and that each child is different. I know this but I can’t help it, I slip up often and have little pity parties in my head. I wrote about potty training here and since then we had a good few days and then he decided he wanted nothing to do with the potty. Naturally, I keep trying to figure out why. He had only positive experiences with the potty and he enjoyed the sticker chart we were doing. His refusal is without tears, just very matter of fact. I suspect that this is not entirely unusual and I’ve responded by easing up a bit and bringing up the potty every few days.

Another struggle we are having relates to sleep. Diego is not fond of getting into bed these days. He doesn’t want to go to sleep and his refusal has him rejecting books as well. They are so tied into our bedtime routine that his disdain has not spared them. It’s annoying to deal with because bedtime is now a longer process that has me or my husband sitting in his room until he falls asleep. If we leave he gets out of bed. We’ve tried a lot of different things and so far nothing has worked. He has also been waking up during the night, something that he did not do just a few months ago. Whatever this phase is about I am ready for it to end. I’m coping by continuing to be consistent with our routine and I walk him back to bed and tuck him in when he wakes up at 2am and do so again and again on nights with multiple wakings.

I can’t lie and say that I don’t feel myself becoming angry at times. It is NOT easy to keep your cool while sleep deprived and the urge to raise my voice or even (gasp) smack him has cropped up. It ashamed me to admit it and that’s ok, I am human. There is no shame in being weak and finding ourselves in these situations where our patience is tested to its limits. I am not a fan of pretending that parenting is all rainbows and unicorns. No child is perfect and people can pretend that they birthed little angels but those angels have horns sometimes, haha. I’m not a perfect parent.

Diego is a very sweet boy and I have to admit that I have very few reasons to complain but he’s a two year old who is still not in control of his emotions etc, so of course he’s going to have bad days! It’s part of growing up. I’m growing up right along with him.

During the past couple of months I have not been posting here consistently and this is another source of feelings of failure. I don’t really know why. I decided to write this blog for me and I still write it for myself but I do enjoy sharing. I especially treasure the messages I get from people who read and reach out to me. BookFridays got away from me. I am about 8 books behind and this stresses me out. I got out of the habit of writing a post right after I finished a book and now I feel like it all got away from me. I plan on getting back on track but there are times when I berate myself for falling off my schedule.

I am a failure is this toxic, destructive mantra that we all need to fight against. I would say we need to get rid of it but I think it’s ok to be low, and feel down. It’s ok to give into those feelings every now and then. That’s human. I also think we need to be kind to ourselves and be forgiving. It’s so much easier to talk others up but when it comes to ourselves we reserve the harshest judgment. We kick ourselves when we are down and we tell ourselves the very worst lies about our worth. Even at our lowest we all have things to look back on and be proud of and feel stronger. Most of all, we are worthy of love, friendship, happiness and success always.

I am a failure is a lie.

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“Girl” stuff is good stuff

Our kids don’t live in a bubble. Eventually, we will share them with the world and that world has opinions. If we stop to think about our own convictions we can see how they have been shaped by our families, our friends, our communities, etc. What we read, what music we listen to, it all has messages. We internalize a lot of them. Society influences us, it has a voice and that voice whispers a lot of crap into our collective ear. I stopped buying what society is selling a long time ago.

Before I became a parent I knew that the whole pink is for girls blue is for boys dichotomy was not for me. I don’t believe there are toys for girls and toys for boys. There are toys. ONE category. If you browse a Sunday paper circular you’ll find that toys are gendered. The store TELLS you and your children which toys are meant for them. We see little girls playing with a pink vacuum cleaner and rocking a baby doll to sleep. In a way, it’s grooming girls for their role in life while reinforcing the idea that these toys are not meant for boys. Foregoing this is often seen as something radical. You buy your son a toy vacuum and your daughter a model airplane and you’re making a political statement. Personally, I am not seeking to make a political statement. I don’t consider my parenting style anything other than love for my son as a human being.

I’ve witnessed parents direct their kids to “gender appropriate” toys. It makes me sad. If you browse long enough at Toys R Us you are bound to pick up on something of the sort. I’ve never tried to influence what Diego plays with. Early on he gravitated towards toys with wheels. Cars and trains are some of his favorites. But his interests don’t end there. Whenever we visit the toy store we browse all the aisles not just the ones that are intended for boys. I let him explore without directing him. Of course toys that pose a choking hazard etc are out of the question but he has carte blanche over anything that’s safe for his age group.

Diego often uses my husband’s iPad. He has several apps on it that he can access. On YouTube he loves watching toy unboxing videos. ToyGenie is one of his favorites. On the Nick Jr. app he can watch cartoons. I often watch him navigate these and my observations tell me that he doesn’t have gender based preferences. He likes Peppa Pig, Lalaloopsy, Little Charmers, Paw Patrol, and Blaze the monster truck. He has no concept of our idea of gender. He’s brand new, innocent, uncorrupted and untainted by society. On Disney Jr. he watches just about every show, Octonauts is his absolute favorite but he gets excited about Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins, too. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse has a place of honor in his rotation. Within age appropriate shows he picks different things on different days but my point is that he does not reject a show about a princess. He hasn’t been taught to.

Today I took him to the drug store to buy some cold medicine for my husband. After we picked up what we needed we took a walk around the store. Naturally, we ended up on the toy aisle. We looked at different toys, talked about them, took a close look at a few and then we came to some metal lunch boxes that housed a puzzle inside. He recognized Sofia the First on one of them and grabbed for it. Behind it there was an Avengers one. He pointed to it and identified Captain America and then went back to the Sofia one. I thought, okay he is showing a preference for Sofia between the two of them. I didn’t question his choice because why would I put it in his head that his choice is somehow wrong? He saw the options and he picked what he liked. I decided to get it for him since I had been wanting to do a puzzle for him anyway.

We picked up a gallon of milk before heading to the register. Shopping with Diego can be tricky because when he has an item in his hand he is hesitant to let go of it so it can be scanned. He surprised me by handing it over to the cashier. The cashier looked at the lunch box and asked him if he had a sister. I answered for him in the negative. She addressed him again telling him that he couldn’t have that lunchbox as it was for girls and he was a boy. I told her that he wanted it and that’s all that mattered to me. Thankfully, Diego has no idea what she was talking about but one day he will understand and he will feel something. His self-confidence will be zapped and he will question his interests.

There are several things that bothered me about this interaction and I will list them below:

  1. The idea that it’s wrong for boys to like “girly” things. For one it suggests that “girl” things are bad. For the most part qualities that are regarded as feminine are considered weak and negative. Especially in boys and men. Why the put down? Sophia is a great role model for girls AND boys. She’s kind, values honesty and friendship, is brave and takes charge when things go south.
  2. Regardless of her intent she was ostensibly shaming my child for something he wanted and made him happy. Nobody should be shamed or made to feel wrong about what they like.
  3. Boys liking “girl” stuff is judged more often and more harshly than girls liking superheroes (traditionally considered to be for boys).
  4. The idea that children need to be indoctrinated about gender. We need to do away with this notion. It serves no purpose and it harms us. All of us.
  5. The fact that she was, for all intents and purposes, undermining me as a parent and questioning me through her interaction with my child. At the most basic level, whether or not you agree with my stance or not, she was rude. She should not have said anything.
  6. There is usually a reflex reaction to put down women, whether it be putting down “girly” things or femininity in general it’s internalized to the point where women themselves contribute and perpetuate this.

As a parent I don’t have the answers to everything. I am learning constantly but on a social level there are things about which I am certain. I know that I do not want to raise my son in an environment that values toxic masculinity. I want him to learn to embrace and express his emotions in healthy ways. I want him to feel confident about who he is, whoever that may turn out to be. There is this idea that our kids are blank slates for us to mold. As I nurture my child and watch him grow I am constantly reminded that as much as I nurture him he is an individual. He is a person that I have the honor and privilege to care for but he is not something for me to live through.

I am fortunate to be raising him at a time where conversations about gender are happening. We are questioning societal constructs, we are challenging them and in my own ways I am dismantling them. My son is not wrong for liking Sofia the First. I am not a hero for advocating for the freedom to like whatever he wants to like. I am merely doing what I consider to be the right thing.

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Teaching consent is not difficult

Today I was in the middle of responding to a text message from my husband when my son started climbing all over me and horsing around. He was happy, laughing and having a grand old time. I asked him to stop but he was in his own world thinking it was just a game. I quickly thought about how often this very thing happens to us throughout our lives, people violate our boundaries and have no regard for what we want (or don’t want) in the name of playing around. My son is two and a half years old but his age is no reason to put off starting a lifelong conversation about consent.

I gently told him that mommy didn’t like what he was doing and that I had asked him to stop but he hadn’t. “No means no,” I said to him. He looked at me and apologized then went on to play something else. It was such a quick moment but I have no doubt that it was an important one. I don’t believe that we should wait to start speaking to our children about consent. Consent encompasses a lot more than just sexual situations. It means that we regard everyone as fully human and respect their likes and dislikes. It’s about taking feelings and preferences into consideration. Consent means that my son is never under any obligation to show affection to anybody. Even to me.

Sometimes I ask him for a hug and he says no. I don’t try to guilt him into giving me a hug. I simply shrug it off like it’s not a big deal, because it’s not. My son comes up to me and gives me hugs and tells me he loves me all on his own. There is no need for me to feign hurt simply because he decided in that moment that he didn’t feel like hugging me. If we manipulate our children into showing affection they will think that it is okay to manipulate others into showing them affection as well. Affection should be freely given, not coerced. Naturally, I don’t encourage him to kiss and hug family members unless he wants to. Saying hello is enough.

I remember growing up and being made to make physical contact with people who made my skin crawl. It was considered impolite not to. The social anxiety that this caused made me dread seeing family. I just didn’t want to hug and kiss people. I wish back then I could articulate this and furthermore I wish that I believed my parents would even care. Now I’m of the mind that when it comes to MY feelings you can fuck your feelings. We are almost universally socialized to take other people’s feelings into account over our own. In some cases it is down right dangerous to offend someone or piss them off. Women have been killed by men whose advances they rejected.

So here is where I am at with consent. I will respect my son’s boundaries (although he’s not getting out of baths and naps!) and expect him to respect others’. This education has to start at home and it can’t wait. Children are never too young to start learning to respect and be considerate of others. Empathy, especially in boys, is important to nurture. No toxic masculinity here,  that is trash.

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Are picky eaters a myth?

I see this debate every now and then and often wonder if picky eaters are born or made. I am specifically referring to healthy, neurotypical children and adults. I was often cautioned that my son would eventually hate all food except for chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. That day has not yet come. He eats what I eat and turns up his nose at nothing. Am I just lucky? I hear about parents who really struggle to get their kids to eat and who resort to giving them whatever the kid will actually put in his mouth.

Often, picky eaters will only eat a handful of things and they’re sometimes not the healthiest options: frozen nuggets, boxed mac ‘n cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pizza, grilled cheese, etc. I’ve seen kids who will only eat pizza or some sort of frozen chicken product dipped in sauce. All of those things are ok every once in a while but I wonder how do we get to that point? Obviously, convenience plays a role. Who wants their child to go hungry?

The next time you go out to dinner take a look at the kids menu. Most restaurants offer the same tired things for kids: macaroni, nuggets, pizza, mashed potatoes. It’s all so uninteresting. Why do we limit our children to these options? Even the food that’s marketed to kids is made up of the same bland stuff. Sure, there are better options available but the companies that spend the big bucks to advertise and thus have the most prominent placement in stores are often the same companies that produce all sorts of junky food products.

I believe that there is a very tiny amount of kids who are truly picky about what they eat. Some children may not even like to eat. It’s a struggle that I am sure many parents face with a lot of anguish. Being constantly worried that your child gets adequate nutrition when they refuse to eat most things is a headache I can’t even imagine. I also believe there are things we can do to encourage healthy eating habits in our children and avoid the stereotypical picky eater behavior. A lot of the habits they form now will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I am, of course, not an expert but here are a few things I have learned and applied to my own son with successful results:

  1. Don’t give up too soon.  Sometimes kids reject foods several times before they decide they like them. If your child tries carrots once and spits them out don’t decide that she hates carrots! Offer them again at a later time prepared in a different way. For example, Diego will eat cooked carrots but has not yet accepted raw ones.
  2. Don’t force a child to eat anything. Some nights Diego will eat his way around his plate and eat some things but not others. Making a clean plate a requirement causes a negative association with food and mealtimes. Allow your child to make choices by offering options on their plate.
  3. Make mealtimes family time. When kids see us do something they are likely to follow suit. We try to eat all of our meals at the table as a family and we all eat the same thing.
  4. Involve them in meal prep. How much they can be involved in will depend on their age but even a two year old can get a kick out of watching or even dumping ingredients in a bowl.
  5. Don’t be too quick to assign a label. All kids will refuse something or other at some point, but don’t slap the “picky eater” label on them. It will cause you to give up.
  6. Before you offer your child an alternative meal ask yourself if what you’re giving them is out of convenience. The very few times Diego refused to eat something I instead offered him some cottage cheese, yogurt and fruit. I never cook a separate meal for him but I am flexible enough to have healthy alternatives for when something just doesn’t jive with him.
  7. Kids develop bad habits because we allow it. Whenever I hear people say that their child eats ONLY pizza, or nuggets, or peanut butter I wonder how the child developed this taste for the food. The answer is always because the parents provide it. It’s so tempting to reach for something you KNOW they will eat. Resist that urge whenever possible!
  8. Variety is key. I have started cooking a lot more veggies. Even ones I had never tried before. The more things they try the more opportunities they have to discover things they like.

Food preferences will arise but to me, a preference is different to “doesn’t eat ANY vegetables” and “doesn’t eat ANY fruit” or “she ONLY eats xyz”.  I guess I am a bit on the fence about the whole picky eater debate. While I think that sometimes parents do play a role I also think that some people are just picky. My husband is one such example. I have no idea how he was fed as an infant but I find his palate to be very different to mine. He rarely tries a new food and so I am often at odds with his preferences and my desire to try new things and introduce Diego  to as many foods as possible. What I resort to doing is simply sneaking stuff in. Most of the time he is none the wiser although I always come clean once he’s finished eating. He’s not a fan of my method but I think he’s slowly realizing that more veggies in his food is not a bad thing at all.

I know that my experience is different to that of a parent who struggles each day to get their child to eat anything at all. Coming home tired, cooking dinner only to have it rejected by your child would wear me down as well. So, why not give them the boxed macaroni with nuggets?!  It’s food, it won’t kill them and it will get them fed. Sometimes whatever works is all we have left. I don’t like it when parents get judged for doing the best they can. I know that I wouldn’t feel good feeding my son PBJ sandwiches everyday which is why I don’t, but how other people cope with the curveballs of parenthood is something I don’t feel is my place to judge.

Lastly, I am well aware that I am privileged to have the time and financial resources to cook from scratch, and be choosy about what I serve my family. It’s not cheap or easy to be picky about what we feed our picky eaters 😉

How about you? Do you have a picky eater? How do you avoid a food rut with your kids?

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Not much of a talker

Diego is only two months away from his second birthday and he is not talking very much. He says mama, papa, dada, and no. He uses the sign for “more” and has even expanded his use of it to include asking for anything he simply wants. He will point and sign to me. He gets his point across. He can also shake his head no, and wag his finger no. It’s quite amusing. What is less amusing is knowing that by this age he is supposed to have a vocabulary of about fifty words. It is not uncommon for toddlers to develop outside the established norms and while these can cause unnecessary worry for some of us they also provide early intervention for others.

I am committed to raising a fully bilingual child. I want Diego to speak Spanish fluently, as a native speaker. I want him to read and write it as well. When he goes to school all instruction will be in English so he is more than well covered in that respect although I worry that he will be underestimated and discriminated against simply because Spanish will be the first language he learned. I will, of course, deal with that issue if it ever comes up but for now I am mostly interested in encouraging him to develop his speech. Like I said before, we speak to him in Spanish but he is exposed to English as well. I have read that this duality can cause children to take longer to talk but that by age five they are caught up and speaking two languages.

There are days when I worry and question myself about his lack of speech. By all accounts my husband was a late talker and since Diego is a carbon copy of his father in every other way, perhaps he also takes after him with regards to this as well. During his next visit to his pediatrician I am sure this will be addressed should nothing change between now and then. I am open to any intervention deemed necessary as long as it will include Spanish as the language of instruction. Living in South Florida I do not anticipate this being a problem.

I think it’s important for parents to leave pride aside when developmental delays are suspected or present. We do not help our children by denying them or ignoring them. There is no shame in requiring a little help and if parents show children that there is shame in it they are doing them a great disservice. Something that always bugs me about development in toddlers is that some parents want to make it about intelligence. If your child is a late talker he is not stupid, or less intelligent than a child who has a larger vocabulary. Intelligence manifests in different ways and to project our own insecurities onto our children is wrong.

I have been doing a lot of research on speech development and have found some great resources. I have also started looking into Spanish language curricula for pre-school and beyond. Children spend about 8 hours a day at school, that’s only one third of their day! Education starts at home. Parents need to be involved and stay involved in order to give children the tools they need to succeed. I can already tell it’s going to be challenging (and fun!) but I am committed to Diego’s education. If I want him to learn Spanish I will need to be a very active participant and facilitator.

Finding materials to aid me in my journey is not easy but when I find something I feel like I’ve struck oil. My list of bookmarks continues to grow as does my list of materials I want to check out. I am still a disorganized mess but once I get myself sorted out I will share my findings here in case any one out there is as lost as I have been.

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Waving goodbye to your toddler

One of the many wonderful things that come with a visit from my mom is the ability for my husband and me to head out on our own. Whether it’s to watch a movie or run some errands spending any sort of time alone together feels really special. I am able to enjoy this time with my husband because I know that my son is in great hands. Hands that I know I can trust because they’re the same hands that raised me, and I turned out OK!

I think anybody that has had kids can attest to the fact that there are things that we all do differently than our parents. I think it’s completely normal because no two people are exactly alike. We all make different decisions based on our own personalities, beliefs and information available to us. No matter how we come to our decisions the impetus is always the same: we want what’s best for our children.

Whenever my husband and me would head our my mom would immediately distract Diego. It brought back a lot of memories of me helping do the exact same thing for my cousins when their parents would step out. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, or simply a habit my family shares but across the board it was what was done. So I immediately understood my mother’s instinct when it came to Diego. Now, I am not one of those parents that is very picky about things involving my son. I would consider myself quite laid back in that respect. But when it comes to saying goodbye to him I don’t want him to be tricked into being left with somebody while I step out. I feel very strongly about this which is why explained to my mom how and why I wanted to do it differently.

It is normal for kids to experience separation anxiety, and it is normal for them to cry and be upset for a bit after one departs. It breaks my heart to see him cry when I leave but I know it has to be done. I also understand the desire to avoid the tears by simply distracting a child so that he doesn’t see his parent(s) leave. There are two main reasons why I don’t believe in distraction over openly waving goodbye to our children:

1. Trust that mom and dad will come back.

I want Diego to learn that he can trust that we will return to him. That we will be honest with him and tell him when we are leaving. I plan on parenting with open communication and this includes communicating with him when we are leaving him behind. He might not understand it all right now but a kiss and a wave goodbye is something he is familiar with.

2. I don’t want him to feel that he has to look over his shoulder.

Peace of mind is something you can’t place a value on. I want my son to have this. I don’t want him to realize that anytime he looks the other way Mom and Dad might disappear without a word. The anxiety that can cause is potentially harmful in my opinion. Being carefree and relaxed is what I want to give him and I think that at some point kids pick up on the vibe whenever their caretaker(s) are about to sneak off. For one thing it’s very blatant when we try to distract them, and the nervous energy is something kids can very easily pick up on.

I honestly feel that sneaking off to avoid tears is more for the parent’s benefit than for the child’s. I hate to see my sweet boy pout and cry when we leave but I know that within a few minutes he will be back to playing and having a good time. In time he will learn that even though we may go out for a bit we will always return to him. We are not abandoning him.

I want to thank my mom for always being open-minded and understanding. I always hear horror-stories about grandmothers who force their way of doing things. I am lucky that my mom has always respected my parenting choices. I have never been shy about standing up for myself and while I think we should always pick our battles I also believe in standing up for things you feel strongly about. And speaking about that I also think it’s important to communicate effectively with caretakers about your expectations and limits. Oftentimes a simple explanation of your thought process is enough to incite conversation. My mom and I do not see everything in the same way, nor will we ever, but we share a thirst for learning and discovering new points of view. I hope to pass that on to my son.

 

I am teaching my son not to rape

There have been many news stories recently that have caused me to contemplate Diego’s future and what I want to instill in him. I have a lot of thoughts in my head so this post will probably be all over the place. The shooting of six women in Isla Vista brought about an important conversation about the treatment of women. The gunman’s manifesto has become an example of the mysogyny that runs rampant in our society. The hashtag #yesallwomen was a heart-wrenching read. And it’s absolutely true that all women have at some point or another experienced sexual harassment of some sort.

Men feel entitled. They are taught to feel entitled to access to women and their bodies. You hear men complain about being friend-zoned. I have such an issue with this term because it puts an emphasis on sex and romance being the point of any male/female relationship. I have seen a disgusting meme featuring a sloth whispering in a woman’s ear with the caption “She put me in the friend zone so I put her in the rape zone.” Even more disgusting is the fact that this meme has a name: rape sloth and if you’re brave enough to Google it you will find hundreds of memes that reduce rape to nothing more than a joking matter. If you are a man it’s not enough to not have raped, or to not plan to rape. By sitting back and doing nothing when your buddies joke about it makes you an accomplice. Men like that contribute to the problem. Any person that stays silent when this is joked about is perpetuating this idea that it is acceptable to joke about rape. It is never ok.

Growing up I remember very clearly a delineation between what was male and what was female. I understood at a very early age that boys were better, stronger, faster, and smarter. I was taught that when a boy hit me, stole my pencils and pulled my hair it meant he liked me. I will never forget when my sixth grade teacher dismissed my complaint about a fellow male student and then proceeded to tease me that he liked me. I “dated” him for a while in seventh grade. It all ended when he forced his tongue down my throat and disgusted, I pushed him away. I wasn’t ready for that but he forced it on me. Other boys told him to dump me for being frigid. When I told him I wanted nothing more to do with him he seemed shocked.

I learned a lot from that brief relationship. I learned to be scared of boys. They don’t respect boundaries. They are taught that boundaries are meant to be broken, pushed, annihilated. Boys are taught from an early age that girls are things to conquer. I’ve had strangers grab my ass, request that I flash them my boobs (because when you’re well endowed you’re no doubt looking for attention), and been felt up without my consent. And that’s just the physical stuff, men have made lewd remarks since before I was of age.

Now I have a son and I feel a huge responsibility to raise him to be the man that all men should be. The kind of man that will respect women not because she is another man’s daughter but because she is a human being. That is reason enough to treat women right. I cannot begin to explain how infuriating it is to hear people use women being someone’s mother, sister, daughter or wife as a reason why they ought to be respected. Why should my relation to another male be what determines my worth? I reject that reasoning.

Diego is still young, much too young to have a conversation about consent but the educating starts now. It starts by teaching him that no and stop are powerful and meaningful no matter who uses them. This is important because I want him to feel empowered to use them himself but also because it will teach him that when the words are used the action stops. Every single time.

Forced affection is also something that I will not subject him to. I think it sets a bad precedent for the rest of a child’s life to be forced to hug and kiss against his will. Not only is this dangerous for children in general in terms of child abuse/molestation but it teaches him that even if affection is unwanted you still have to submit to it. It will always be his choice how to express his affection. This is also about teaching him consent. Both his own as well as that of other people.

It’s time to push back against what’s become so common: the belief that women need to avoid rape, that where we go, what we wear and how we act somehow contributes to rape.  Rape is ALWAYS the fault of the rapist. It’s time for this conversation to be at the forefront of our consciousness instead of relegated to radical feminist talk.

I am teaching my son not to rape. I am teaching him not to slut-shame, fat-shame or body-shame. I am calling out my husband when he says something sexist. It’s an on going conversation that we will continue to have as a family. I don’t think that it should take having a daughter for a man to understand that the constant threat of rape that women live under is unacceptable.

Not long ago I was walking to the pharmacy and a guy was walking behind me. Pretty mundane, except my hairs stood on end and I was on high alert. I was walking down a busy street in the middle of the day. I know for a fact that my husband would not have given the other pedestrian a second thought. That is male privilege.

There is so much to be said on this topic. A lot has been said on it already but I hope it continues to be discussed. We have a long way to go. I see men that I love and respect fall short everyday. I see micro-aggressions all the time. In tweets, Facebook posts, comments, etc. I will never again stay quiet because complacency costs lives. Because I have a son who will one day go out in the world and leave his mark. Because my friends have daughters who will one day be out in that same world and I want to do my part to make it better for all of us.

Women are right to fear men and to the men who are offended when women fear them don’t tell me you’re offended. Don’t tell me that not all men are like that. Tell your fellow men to not be scum to women. Call them out and set them straight. There aren’t enough good men around.

Orlando Vacation

Full disclosure: I used to write fanfiction. It’s how I met my lovely friend, Emily, who I finally met in person after three years of e-mails, Skype calls, and iMessages. This vacation was significant for many reasons, we were celebrating a birthday, meeting up with friends and family, and taking our first real vacation in years. We did some traveling last year but it was always for an event and as a result had very little downtime. This vacation, although jam packed with fun was a lot more laid back.

Our vacation began last Saturday. We left the house at around 10:30am and made a couple of stops before getting on the turnpike. Diego slept for most of the ride and when he wasn’t sleeping he was happily singing along to whatever was playing on the radio.  Instead of heading straight for our hotel we stopped at my husband’s aunt’s house to see his grandmother. We had a nice little visit before finally making our way to our hotel.

I have to give my friend credit for finding our amazing accommodations. The Sheraton Vistana Villages Resort on Internatonal Drive was nothing short of wonderful. Our room had a dining area, living room, kitchenette and separate bedroom as well as a screen covered balcony. The resort was very family friendly and located close to pretty much anything you’d want to do in the Orlando area.

We didn’t do much on our first night there, my friend was pretty tired from her trans-Atlantic journey and the day had worn us all out. Sunday was spent by the pool and we ended our day with dinner at Smokey Bones. Dinner was delicious and a little uncomfortable for me as I spectacularly spilled a glass of ice water on myself. My husband got a little wet as well but I bared the brunt of my clumsiness. I spent our entire dinner sitting in damp clothing! Still, it was a small mercy that it was water and not soda.

The one disappointment during our trip was having to cancel our visit to Magic Kingdom. Diego had a bad night and that prompted us to make the decision to stay in bed and skip our visit. We later noticed that Diego is having a tooth come in so that was probably the reason he kept waking up that night as he is usually a good sleeper. It was the only night during our stay that he did not sleep straight through. I guess this just wasn’t our time to visit the park. That’s the thing about traveling with toddlers, you never know when they will throw a wrench in your plans. I suppose other parents might have chosen to go ahead with their plans but I just couldn’t do that to us. Diego would have been cranky after getting such few hours of sleep and the day was hot. It would have been the worst possibly scenario under which to take him to DisneyWorld for the first time.

Even though we didn’t get to do every single thing we had wanted to (days seem longer in your head when you create your holiday wishlist) we still had a really good vacation. I only wish it had been longer!

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Current Favorites

Coming back from vacation is always difficult. Somehow, the brief reprieve from the day to day routine leaves me a bit dazed. I am working on a post all about our holiday but in the meantime I wanted to catch up with the Blogging 101 assignments. Today I will be sharing some of my favorite web pages and blogs. I like to read all sorts of blogs but these three are the ones I find myself returning to over and over again. I find them to be not only fun and interesting to read, but also useful.

  1. Clean My Space – Melissa Maker and her husband make really neat videos full of tips and tricks all about cleaning pretty much anything you’ll ever need to clean. The blog posts are enhanced with the high production value videos made for their YouTube channel. Melissa’s content is both entertaining and informative. She always makes me want to clean something!
  2. Mama Natural–  Genevieve is a hip, crunchy mama who shares her experiences and information as she seeks to improve the health of her family through real food. She also has a YouTube channel where she shares her day to day life as well as recipes, tips, and general information. I am not crunchy myself, but I am interested in real food and natural living. I also just love her personality. She’s a very genuine person and I thoroughly enjoy her content.
  3. Joy of Baking– I love to bake and there is nothing I love more than a good recipe complete with demonstration. Stephanie Jaworski has created a great resource complete with a YouTube channel where she takes you step by step through her recipes. There is something here for everybody and I have found myself recreating her recipes on more than one occasion. She’s a pleasure to watch and her recipes are always easy to follow.

I hope you’ll take a moment to visit these blogs and take a look around.