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This is What I Told My Sons about Girls

January 25, 2015

On a chilly morning we went to the park to toss around a baseball. That’s what we do. That’s our thing. The three of us fan out across the diamond and throw back and forth. After a while, we went across the street for ice cream… just me and the boys and our cookies ’n cream.

As we ate ice cream we watched a dad with a couple of little girls walk in… girls around the same age as my boys.

We got to talking about the girls. I told them I know they might not like them now, but one day, they’ll think girls are pretty cool. And I told them it’s important above all to respect those girls.

Don’t talk down to them.

Don’t demean them.

Never, ever dare put a harmful hand on them.

I told them the girls can do anything they can. They are the future women of the world. They are just as smart they are just as athletic. They are just as strong. They can be a President or an astronaut or a Fortune 500 CEO just like the boys.

They are beautiful, but don’t need to be defined by their beauty. They are pretty incredible.

Conclusion: Girls rule. Boys drool.

Okay, I didn’t say that last part. Actually, I need to confess. I didn’t say any of it. I don’t have boys. None. Zero. I have two girls. I’m the dad with those other girls who walked in. But I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have sons, and what I would say to them.

Interestingly, the things I would want to teach my boys about girls are the things I’ve learned, and embraced, and realized in the process of raising my own girls. It’s a conversation I’m already having with my daughters… and continue to have with them every day.

By the way, girls play catch, too. And they know never to let a boy dictate who she is, or how she should feel, or why she is going to be a superstar one day in whatever path she chooses.

Pete Wilgoren is an Emmy award winning journalist who writes about his often surprising, embarrassing, and educational experiences surrounded by a wife and two little girls. Find Dadmissions on Facebook and on his blog Dadmissions.

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My Marriage Isn't Safe... And Neither Is Yours

January 24, 2015

My husband says I’ve still “got it” and he laughs at my jokes, or perhaps he’s laughing at me. Either way, it doesn’t really matter. There’s laughter happening here, and that can only be a good thing, right?

We also annoy each other. Such is life when a man and a woman decide to shack up and procreate. In fact, I think it’s part of our “spark.”

Our marriage is hitting the 10 year mark this June. We’ve survived (and been blessed) with the addition of three little people into our lives. And we continue to co-exist, in general harmony, with these tree little people. One is even a tween. Just let that sink in for a minute…

We didn’t go through the seven year itch, nor did we have infidelity or big blow outs to lead us to the brink of divorce. We’ve lived in his country (England). We’re now living in mine (Canada). We’ve both made compromises along the way.

For the most part, we’ve had a great ten years. We’ve been lucky.

My husband is still trying to accept (and tame) the free spirit that lives inside me. She was there when we met and, if I have anything to do with it ( I do), she’ll never die. While, I’m learning to embrace (and tolerate) the often black and white nature of his logical-minded ways. Most of the time, we respect our differences. They are the root of our attraction to one another, and a great array of influences to share with our kids.

Yes, occasionally, I’d like to pop him in his smug face and he’d fancy ringing my stubborn neck. That’s what you get when a Type A meets a Type B and you settle down and have a family. But, I love our marriage. So far.

Yet, I know it’s not safe.

Today’s content heart could be tomorrow’s broken one. Even when promises of forever have been made I don’t assume divorce won’t happen to me, to us.

The fact is: Ten years is really not that long. Not on the “forever” scale, it isn’t. I’m not naïve. My parents got divorced when I was 11. In my memory, their marriage was a pretty good one. They laughed a lot. They were friends and partners. I don’t know all of the ins and outs of it, nor do I need to, but, as a kid, I felt secure in my family. I felt as secure as my kids do now. Yet, my parents’ relationship didn’t make it. It lasted 15 years. But, it didn’t make it.

Separation, divorce and discontentment. It’s popping up around us these days. I guess that’s what happens when you hit middle age. People change. Marriages end.

In some cases, unlikely couples simply run out of steam and desire to make the relationships work. In other scenarios, circumstances bring out the worst in those involved and the marriages crack under pressure. Betrayals are happening. Husbands and wives are being blindsided by their partners’ unhappiness.

And I see how it can happen. I get how busy and distracted we can become and how this can disable us from being in tune with ourselves and our partners. I understand how we lose ourselves, and our way, at times. I also know that sometimes, what we want to be true, simply isn’t, and never will be.

I can’t safeguard myself or my marriage. But I can try…

I read somewhere recently that the success of a relationship depends on how a partner responds to the other’s “bids.” As in, do we listen and respond to their expressed needs. Or do we ignore them, overlook them, feel incapable of meeting them. The concept of responding to “bids” has stuck with me. It makes sense. If we are left hangin’, our calls unanswered, our needs unmet, I see how discontentment can creep in.

It’s made me think about the importance of my and my husband’s needs. And not just his need for a clean towel… his emotional needs. (He’d cringe at the thought of me writing this). You see, unlike me, he won’t come right out and ask. I’ll spell it out if I have to but him, he won’t. As a Type A, he likes to think he’s got everything under control. So it’s up to me to read between the lines.

I’ll do my best to read him and to act accordingly. Even if what I read means I need to make some changes.

I’ll do this. For him. For us. For our kids. But, it won’t secure my marriage. Nothing will.

Because marriage isn’t safe.

Shannon Day is wife to one gorgeous, yet slightly overbearing Brit, and mom to three little ladies. Once a teacher, now a story maker and occasional cocktail shaker, she shares her tales, martini recipes and her shenanigans over at Martinis & Motherhood. Shannon is a regular contributor for BLUNTmoms and is co-founder of Tipsy Squirrel Press. You can also find her on Scary Mommy, Mamalode, Facebook, and Twitter.

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When "Good" Parenting Gets You Arrested: "Free Range" Kids v Helicopter Parenting

January 23, 2015

I have never labeled my parenting style, I just thought of myself as a “good” parent, like I’m sure most people do. How I parent is a balance of my sanity, and the health, happiness and independence of my children. However, I have been thinking a lot about my style this week, as news hit of the “Free Range” couple in my home state of Maryland. The Meitiv family received a visit from the police and Child Protective Services (CPS) as a result of letting their 10 and 6 year old walk a mile home from a park.

My first introduction to the label “Free Range” was in the Mommy Blogosphere. People used the term to justify letting their children have near complete control over where they went and when, whether or not they bathed, when they slept, and what and when they ate. This horrified me on many levels because it is the absolute opposite of my values.

I believe that children need regular sleep and meals for optimum health. And, as for calling the shots on their schedules? I AM the boss of them! They need to learn how to deal with authority, because that is a Life skill.

This doesn’t mean that I put the “dic” in dictator: empowering your self-confidence and independence is just as important as empowering your obedience. And so we have always used a balance of skill sets in my home; manners, no back-talking, mutual respect, and at the same time, many opportunities for autonomy and building the skills they will need to stretch beyond their comfort zones.

About her children, Danielle Meitiv said, “They have proven they are responsible. They’ve developed these skills.”_

Yes! Of course they did. What parent is just going to throw their kids outside one day and say, “Good luck, Honey!”

Do we all have to parent under a cloak of paranoia? Since when did fear-based parenting become equated with “good” parenting, and the rest of us by default are considered “bad” parents? As my husband said, through his clenched jaw, “people have stopped using good judgment.”

What disturbs me the most about this situation is that this family was not being misjudged by some hyper-vigilant, helicopter Mom, they were being told by a police officer and a social worker that they were wrong. And these people had the power to take away their children.

My 8-year-old son crosses a small main road after he gets off the school bus. Sometimes, I am not yet home, and he lets himself into our house and he calls me on the phone to let me know he is in. My 11-year-old daughter has been cooking meals for herself and her brother for about two years, using sharp knives, the microwave, and the stove. I send my children off together on trips on their bikes, down to the park to play with their neighborhood friends. When did I decide it was time to let them do all of these things? When they told me they were ready. And they knew they were ready, because these were skills that we had been working on together to prepare them.

Since my children took their first breaths in this world, I have been grooming them for their independence. This is not to say that I have pushed them into it. Rather, I have followed their curiosity and empowered them with information and encouragement. Instead of just holding their hands as toddlers and pulling them across the street, I kept up a stream of cues: “First we stop. Then we look one way, then the other. Then back again. Then we walk.” Eventually, I would let them tell me what we do. Then, I would let go of their hand. Then, the day came when they told me they were ready to do it alone. I watched from the sidewalk, then from the window of our house. Now, it’s just something they do. It has been like this with every new adventure: bike rides, bathing, cooking, trips to the park. It’s a dance of trust. Each activity has expectations that must be fulfilled, and if they are not, the privilege is taken away. My kids love being independent, and their self-confidence has blossomed with each new adventure.

So, how can an outsider know that my children are capable of handling themselves if they were to observe them on their own in public?

It’s simple, they look like they know what they are doing.

They don’t look lost or unsure of themselves. Everyone knows what a lost and scared child looks like. If my kids were to be approached (they probably wouldn’t talk to you – they don’t know you!) but they might tell you that I am home, I know where they are, and I am expecting them home at a certain time. All answers any police officer could easily discern without putting our children in foster care and sending the authorities in to question us. If people are doing their due diligence on either side of this equation, it will be clear which kids are being properly parented, and which kids are cases of neglect.

I am not in denial that kids are at risk for abduction and that cases of abuse and neglect exist. I am so aware of their existence, that I am angry that our already clogged department of protective services is wasting their time harassing good families that are arming children against being victims. Children who are self-confident are much less likely to be a target for abuse in their lifetime.

Our society is so paralyzed by our 24/7 awareness of bad news, that we have disproportionately assessed the risk that is beyond our front doors. And because of this, we have stopped helping our kids take risks while they are still under our protection. And when we stop helping them take risks, we stop teaching them the necessary life skills they will need to be on their own.

We are raising a nation of teenage toddlers. Their world is safer than ours was. Violent crime is down, not up. Our kids are more likely to be abused by a known predator than a stranger, which only accounts for about 3% of all cases. But have we stopped enrolling them in Scouts or sports teams? They are more likely to be injured in a car accident, but have we stopped driving them around?

Ashley is a hyper-flexible mother of two bouncing (literally) kids. A lack of collagen has left them the world’s worst Superheros (but don’t tell them that). She writes about the wacky things that their syndrome has taught her family, and tries to keep everyone chuckling. You can read more at The Incredible Adventures of Malleable Mom. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Decades of Abuse, Dozens Abused

January 22, 2015

Our intention was to dance on his grave.

My beautiful cousin, who I’d not seen in 35 years, and I, set out to dance on our grandfather’s grave. Our first dilemma was, of course, song choice. You have to have the right song. We bandied a few titles about; Alanis Morrisette was a front runner.

Obviously.

We drove to the town where he lived, and where he is buried. We drove to the town where we were abused. Driving down the picturesque New England roads, I felt a little faint. Mary felt a little barfy. We pulled into a store parking lot and Mary spent some quality time behind a dumpster, hurling. It happens.

We weren’t entirely sure where the cemetery was, so we pulled into a police station to ask for directions. I said, jokingly, We should go in and file a police report. Mary said, What would happen if we went inside and filed a police report?

I said, Let’s do it.

We walked in, after Mary barfed again, and there was a darling older police officer behind the glass window. Mary told him we were looking for the cemetery and I had a moment of, We’re probably not REALLY going to do this. Then, my beautiful cousin, who is the bravest person I know, said, “And we would like to report a crime.”

That got his attention.

She said, “Our grandfather sexually molested us 35 years ago, and we want to report him.”

We were ushered into a conference room where a young officer came in to talk to us. He handles all of their sexual assault and rape cases. He introduced himself, sat down, and proceeded to ask us questions about what happened. Names, addresses, dates. I called my sister, Aimee, and put her on speakerphone. We were all crying.

“Aimee,” I said, “He’s writing it down.”

He wrote it down.

We said, This happened to us, and he listened. He WROTE IT DOWN.

I cannot begin to tell you how powerful that was.

He said several times, “I don’t want to open any wounds”, so if you don’t want to answer this, that’s okay.

Finally I said, “The wounds are all still open. Obviously. What do you want to know?”

I found myself saying, to a police officer, I was raped. I never thought that would happen.

Then Mary asked a question I would not have thought to ask, but the answer to which I really needed. She said, “What would have happened to him, if someone had reported it?”

The officer told us the procedural things, he said he would have interviewed us, he would have interviewed our grandfather, he would have corroborated what he could. And then he said, “I would have driven down the street and arrested him.”

That is what should have happened.

We know there is nothing to be done. We know there will be no consequences and no justice. Life is staggeringly unfair, sometimes.

But there is a record. We walked into that police station holding the jagged shards of our story, of our childhood, and said, LOOK. THIS HAPPENED. And Officer Paul Smith bore witness. He wrote it down.

In few days, the police report will be available, and Mary will go get three copies. Or, if she makes good on her threat to send it out in lieu of a Christmas card next year, maybe many more. But, at least three. We will each have a copy.

We asked Officer Smith if anyone else ever comes forward about our grandfather – because we know with absolute certainty there are MANY more victims – to please give them our information. We want to meet them.

At that point we thought we were still going to go to the cemetery. Officer Paul offered us a police escort.

I think it is important to note, in the face of so much awfulness, that people really are mostly very good. He was so kind. He took it so seriously. He honored our loss.

Mary decided she’s not quite ready to dance on his grave. That’s okay. We’ve found each other again. We’ve got nothing but time.

That’s where this was supposed to end. Then I got a call this morning, from Officer Paul. He said, “Can you come in? I have something I want to tell you guys.”

So…

Mary and I just got back. We were at the police station for hours. Talking to a mama. About her daughter. She told us what happened. Officer Paul wrote it down.

Guys, I don’t quite know what to do with any of this. It’s a LOT. I have a crushing headache and Mary and I have made an agreement that we will spend the rest of the night talking about Adam Levine’s abs. That’s it. That’s all we’ve got. BUT- my world is lighter than it was yesterday.

Since writing this post on January 18th, there have been many more women who have come forth and the investigation is open and ongoing. You can read more about Laura and her journey on her blog, In Other’s Words.

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Mama Always Said You Attract More Bees With...

January 21, 2015

I had a Southern upbringing with everything one would imagine that entails. Sweet tea, porch swings, barefoot adventures, conservative politics, Sunday dresses and kids with BB guns. All that and more.

But one of my favorite things about my Southern upbringing was the way my mama used words.

Madder than a wet hen. Hasn’t got a pot to pee in. Down yonder a little ways. Bless her heart.

Funny little sayings though they were, there was a lesson to be learned in their simplicity. Sometimes, we try too darn hard to say things extravagantly when the truth is really quite plain. And one of those funny, simple truths has stuck with me my whole life.

I was eleven years old, when I first came home crying on account of the mean girls, Mama sat me on the front porch swing and listened as I prattled through my emotions. I was heartbroken. I was embarrassed. I was angry.

“I tell you what I’m gonna do! I’m gonna think of the most clever, nasty names in the world and I’m gonna march right up to their lunchroom table and let ‘em know how I really feel!” I said.

Mama just listened. Then she started with questions.

What was it that I wanted in all of this? Was it revenge? Was it popularity?

No, not really.

Or was it just that I wished to have good, kind friends?

Bingo.

“Well, sweetheart. You know what they say. You attract more bees with honey than vinegar.”

I let that sink in for a while. I didn’t like the thought of being vinegar, all sour and bitter. I needed to be the honey, sweet and pure. Simple enough, right?

As it turned out, being honey was really stinking hard.

But I worked at it. For the next few years, I was careful with my words. When in a disagreement, I would try my best to kindly state my argument. Politics, religion, whatever the topic… if something needed to be said, I tried to say it gently. I had to slow down my emotions and get a handle on my tongue. Self-control does not come naturally to me. It was a constant, uphill battle.

But you know what? After all those years, it turned out Mama was right.

The bees did show up.

Just recently I’ve noticed a trend in the blogosphere. Writers are taking to their keyboards with a heated fervor, unleashing their no-holds-barred opinions into the world. Crass language and crude humor, and an if-you-don’t-like-it-you-can-shove-it attitude.

At first I sat back and watched. Was it really necessary to be so harsh? Weren’t they gonna scare everyone away with their sharp tongues and dirty words? Didn’t their mama tell them about vinegar and bees?

But the nastier the opinion, the meaner the delivery, or the cruder the story… the more likes, shares, and comments seemed to appear. Their followers ate this stuff up!

The bees were buzzing and I was baffled.

Is this what our generation believes? That being blunt and rude is the same as being strong and witty? If so, I gotta tell ya: We are far off base.

It is pretty darn easy to state your mind bluntly. Having no filter requires no forethought. But taking something you believe in passionately and sharing it in a way that is respectful and kind? That takes an intentional approach. It takes effort.

I realize that I cling to many notions society would shun as being antiquated. I believe in chivalry, respect of elders, and good table manners. I believe in “yes ma’am” and “no, thank you”. And I believe that there is strength in kindness. That being offensive is usually unnecessary and almost always avoidable. That learning to choose your words carefully, and share your opinion thoughtfully, is an art worth practicing. I believe that there is a time and a place for vinegar, but that you lose your taste for it if it’s the only thing you use.

And regardless of the strange behavior of these modern bees, I believe it is worth the effort to be honey.

Because, like my mama always said: If something is worth being said, it’s worth being said well.

And Mama hasn’t been wrong yet.

Mary Katherine and her son Nugget reside at MomBabble.com. There you can find the dreams, recipes, and musings of a Southern mom. Not a perfect mom. Not a crafty mom. Just a normal, messy, slightly opinionated mama who is obsessed with coffee and front porch swings. Y’all should be friends on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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