The Great Bathroom Debate is Bullshit. Here’s Proof.

A few weeks ago, my non-gender conforming daughter (who is 8), and I were in a public restroom. As we were washing our hands, an older lady standing next to me looked at my daughter, (who was out of earshot at the hand dryer at the moment), then turned to me and said, “So, what’s the rule these days? When do parents allow their kids to go to the correct bathroom without a parent?”.

I fell silent for a second, completely confused as to what she was asking me. She took notice of my confusion and filled the silence with “You know what I mean. When will you allow him to go to the boy’s bathroom alone?”.

It took my brain a second to process that she was certain that my daughter was a boy and she was judging me, inferring he should be in his gender assigned bathroom.

“Oh, um. She’s a girl. She’s in the correct bathroom.”

The look on this lady’s face was somewhat indescribable. She could not have been more shocked, stammering and befuddled in that moment. I then saw the look of confusion take over her face, trying to make sense of my child’s gender and what I was saying.

She tried to backpedal and muddled something along the lines of, “Oh, well, well, I, um, just meant that she looks older and, um, I didn’t know…”.

My emotions were somewhere between annoyed, angry, and still confused by the whole conversation. The only thing I could choke out was, “Can’t judge a book by it’s cover, right?”, and she couldn’t manage any words.

First and foremost, stop judging parents, period, lady. Because that’s where she wanted to go with it, I’m certain. She wanted to get on her pedestal about how her generation allowed children to go to the bathroom alone at the age of 2 or whatever higher horse conversation she was encroaching on. I could hear it coming.

But secondly? This is exactly why the transgender bathroom debate makes no sense at all and is utter bullshit. Here it is. A prime example.

Here’s a person that assumed my child was a boy by mere esthetics. Boy clothes, plus boy hair, plus boy mannerisms must equal boy. She certainly could not see her genitalia. And because we were all in the bathroom to do what people do in the bathroom, take a piss, we were not bothering anyone. Why this woman felt the need to say anything at all is beyond me but by doing so, she proved a much larger point.

She proved that had my daughter been in the men’s bathroom, no one would have questioned her at all because she looks like a boy. If my daughter was/is trans, she’s visually acceptable and it would go without notice that she is in the stall next to another little boy. No one would know that she actually has a vagina.

The fact of the matter is, you have taken a squat in the very next stall to a trans person. You absolutely have. You just don’t know it. Because, as my daughter proved to this woman, looks can be very, very deceiving. Guys look like girls, girls look like guys, and trans people look like who they are. But more so- who cares?

Straight, gay, trans, bi- when we go into a bathroom, we all just need to go to the bathroom. That’s it. Pee, or take a shit, wash our hands, and move on. Why everyone is so goddamned concerned with our genitalia is bizarre. There are plenty of hard facts documenting that straight men are usually the perpetrators in any kind of bathroom assault or perversion so what’s with this preoccupation with transgender people or gender in general?

Since this whole bathroom debate began a couple of years ago, it caused me so much confusion about what it is everyone is so afraid of. I know the big bathroom debate is tired. I know it’s been written, it’s been discussed ad-nauseam. So, this is me half venting, half {hopefully} educating in a spill of emotion.

The truth seems to be, people just don’t want to be wrong about this marginalized community and this is why this is even still a topic of discussion. They don’t want to try to understand the biology and how it’s different from their own, or even if it’s different at all. They don’t want to realize that they’re just like everyone else.

Regardless of what your bible might tell you or what “morals and ethics” you hold true, or if you’re just one of those that believe those that challenge gender norms are “freaks”, try to put that all aside for one second. They’re people. Just living. That’s it. They’re just human beings. That’s it. Normal, breathing, thriving humans that need to go to the bathroom. If you don’t want to try to understand anything else about gender issues, fine. But just recognize the simple fact that they need to go to the fucking bathroom, just like you.

It hurts so many people when we move backwards, back towards exclusivity, opposed to inclusiveness. The us-versus-them mentality. The you’re-different-so-you-must-be-wrong mentality. And we are, indeed, slipping backward.

I hope we can do better as a whole with this entire topic. I’m not overly optimistic lately.

But also? Don’t give unsolicited parenting advice. Ever.

And, Stop judging books by their covers. Let my daughter pee and mind your own business.

 

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Dear Neighbors, Thank You For Being A Part of My Village

I live in the retirement capitol of the world. Literally.

The median age of my town is 67. It’s been referred to as “Heaven’s Waiting Room” and all of the other “near death” jokes you can think of. Bunko, golf, and pickle ball are the focus of most conversations and no one eats dinner after 5:30pm, (which, I’ve somehow comfortably melded into this). The speed limit here is 45 but you must drive at least 15mph under that in the left lane. And, if you’re looking for any establishment to be open after 8pm, you’re out of luck. Our Walmart is open 24 hours, though. That was giant news when it opened.

I have been here the majority of my life and it wasn’t always the most exciting place for children. When I was school-aged, most communities were strictly 55 and over (and still are), meaning, yes, that they discriminate against anyone younger living in them. That said, young families were just dispersed throughout our town since there was not one community that was geared towards that demographic. We were lucky to have one or two kids within a 3 mile radius.

I now have an 8 year old who happens to be an only child. And truth be told, I am one of those moms that hates playing with their kids. Sorry, but it’s true. I am not that kind of fun mom. I will do dance parties, watch movies, go on hikes, go to the beach, go to the pool, but if the play involves my child telling me what to say during imaginary play….nope. Sorry. I suck at it. So, she does rely on her friends, as I believe she should.

About 4-5 years ago, a home builder of those cookie-cutter type housing communities acknowledged the need for a community that appealed to younger families, noticing that this population is growing here.

Low and behold, he was building a monster community where he put in a….water slide.

:::Cue opening gates of heaven music::::

A water slide. Fucking genius. Build it and they will come.

And so all of us young families marched in like zombies to purchase a new home and asked, “Where do we sign?”, declaring, “Take my money!!”. I don’t even think any of us cared what the house necessarily looked like, what the quality was like, or how much it even cost.

There was a water slide. And playgrounds. And walking trails. And kayaks. And even promotional pictures posted of….children playing. It was a Christmas miracle.

So, I’ve painted the picture. My neighborhood houses approximately 75% of the young families of our town here. Slight exaggeration but not really.

The amazing result here is that my child now has built in friends. A plethora of young kids her age. So many that I cannot count. She’s so fortunate to have this. I’m actually envious of her childhood, at the risk of patting myself on the back.

But she’s not the only fortunate one. I am, too.

My neighbors are a huge part of my village. The village it takes to raise a kid. And I’m so thankful.

I’m able to have her put on her handy little GPS watch-phone thing and off she goes, sometimes for hours. Maybe playing video games, maybe playing and outside game of kickball, maybe playing Legos somewhere.

So, yes, my kid is the one that’s always at your house.

But it works both ways.

As I type, I’m listening to fort building and nerf gun wars upstairs after a sleepover, that was complete with popcorn, donuts, and massive amounts of YouTube viewing. Sometimes I have as many as 7 children playing at my house, recording videos, destroying my daughter’s room. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I hope I’m able to give other moms and dads the same breaks, breaks that they certainly deserve, that they give to me.

It might not always be an even amount of time spent between houses. I don’t keep score. My guess is that no, it isn’t. My child probably spends far more time at others’ houses than they spend here because it’s always more fun at someone else’s house.

And if that’s an issue, I would hope someone would speak up and tell me, but I’m assuming we are all in this together. We’re all here for one another, watching our kids grow up together, helping raise them together. (I do expect you to say no to her, as I’ve had to say to your kids, and I expect you to discipline her as you would your own. Again, in this together.)

I love the independence that this neighborhood gives my daughter. I love the freedom it affords her. I’m a huge advocate of breeding healthy independence and freedom because if it can’t start in early childhood, when does it start? When do we stop hovering? When they’re teens and then they go insane with their new freedoms, not knowing exactly how to channel it? I know these are controversial questions, so I’ll answer that for myself…

I’ve realized that having wonderful neighbors allows me to feel safe about letting my child experience things on her own. It has allowed her to make some of her own choices, which aren’t always going to be the right ones, and that’s ok. I trust her. And no, I don’t trust everyone else. Yes, strangers can be dangerous, and I hope I’m doing a decent job of teaching her that. I feel comfortable allowing her to find her way, within reason, because I’m surrounded by a great support system.

I understand that my style of parenting isn’t everyone’s style. We establish that day in and day out with one another, based on the online parenting wars. But I do understand that not everyone agrees with giving their children as much freedom as I give mine. And I definitely respect that. No two parenting styles are alike, which makes the world go round, and ultimately will help my child become more well-rounded, having been exposed to so many different families.

Having all of these amazing people surrounding us, allowing my child to come in and out of their homes, eating their food, playing with their children, even sleeping over at times? I can’t say it enough: I’m so thankful. It’s an amazing advantage and it’s so comforting to know you’re all here. (And special kudos to those parents that imaginary play with my kid. You’re fucking rockstars.)

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being a part of my village. I’m forever thankful. And I hope you feel the same.

 

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Things I Miss.

I complain about social media a lot. And I complain about technology and all of the negative aspects of it.

I also spend approximately 80% of my day on my technology or social media.

It’s a complex, toxic, love/hate relationship, right?

But, seriously. I see how problematic it is and I see how beneficial it is.

It especially worries me for my child’s generation. I fear we’re creating a generation of zombies and dumbasses since these neat little gadgets have become our children’s babysitters (and I am guilty AF).

So, this got me thinking. My childhood was so much less complex and so much more boring.

I miss…

…the days of staying outside and playing until the fireflies told us to go home.

…the days when the terms “helicopter parent” and “social anxiety” weren’t widely known or acknowledged.

…the days of having a phone plugged into the wall and the cord would be all stretched out from trying to walk from room to room.

…the days of Super Mario Bros. being the only form of screen time.

…the days when MTV actually played music videos and The Real World had actual content of college kids making something of themselves, discussing real world issues, instead of just getting wasted drunk and fucking.

…the days of simple seated portraits being an acceptable form of photography, opposed to all of these fancy locations with the wind having to blow in the right direction.

…the days of cell phone minute packages so we actually had to care about how much time we spent on the phone. (I had an Erikson and then a Nokia, FYI.)

…the days of writing notes in class and folding them in the most creative ways possible.

…the days before texting was a thing and people actually had to speak so things weren’t lost in translation.

…the days of not knowing where someone was because they didn’t have a cell phone yet.

…the days of spelling things out with numbers on beepers.

…the days of spending summers reading Sweet Valley High, The Babysitters Club, and Ramona books.

…the days of flannels and grunge clothes that didn’t show ass cheeks.

…the days when The Kardashians weren’t societal icons and middle school kids weren’t so concerned with make-up and lip plumpers.

…the days when rock music actually existed.

…the days when people actually had to have talent to make a healthy living instead of just playing mindless games on YouTube.

…the days when infidelity was the biggest scandal in government.

…the days when bullies actually had to be a dick to your face instead of hiding behind a keyboard, both adults and children.

…the days when selfies weren’t called selfies. They were just pictures you took with your disposable camera and hoped for the best; had them printed and then shoved them in an album.

…the days of rewinding your favorite song in that yellow Sony Walkman.

…the days of actual humorous sitcoms. (Remember T.G.I.F.??)

…the days when the most violent video game was The Legends of Zelda.

…the days of not knowing everyone’s eating, drinking, pooping habits, their political affiliation, and what inspirational quote they’re living by for today via Facebook.

…the days when we all weren’t instantly gratified by every.single.thing. because every answer to everything is in our hand.

And that’s just to name a few.

I’m starting to feel every ounce of my 40 years of age, saying things like, “Well, back in my day, we had an ETCH-A-SCKETCH and that was it!!”. But it’s true. My generation was so much better off than recent generations, I do believe. We were forced to be creative. And we even had actual books and libraries and encyclopedias. Nothing was instanious. Everything required a little bit of work. Mind blowing, right?

We just had a simpler life. Period. They were simpler times. Or so it seemed.

All of this technology is supposed to be making our lives so much better, so much more convenient, and sure, in many ways it is. I love Google Maps, instead of paper maps, and I don’t miss having to find a pay phone. But it certainly has complicated our lives in so many ways.

The irony isn’t lost on me that you’re probably reading this on your smart-technolgy, linked off of a social media site. I get it. As I stare at my child sitting on the couch watching YouTube on our TV.

I get it.

I love it just as much as the next person. I’ve relented to it, allowed it to meld right into my life, for sure.

Perhaps every generation says this, and I know it’s all relative, but I sure do miss the good ole days. I have officially reached the age of saying so.

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I Don’t Want To Fit Into My Kid’s Clothes

And even if I could, I won’t wear them.

:::Deep breath::::

Ok. I am writing this with complete cognizance and mindfulness. I am not a fan of mommy wars or shaming. My message is not that of judgement, but more of awareness. Read this as a cautionary tale, of sorts, from someone who has struggled with body image issues for many, many years. That is my disclaimer.

Something has been bothering me about modern day mother-daughter relationships and I am going to attempt to articulate this the best I can.

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I always viewed my mother as a beautiful human. Inside and out. Still do. I cannot remember exactly when I became aware of how beautiful she is but I remember hoping to look just like her when I grew up. I remember thinking how pretty her skin was, her hair, her nails, her jewelry. I took notice of how she took great care of herself and how she always looked so put together. Nothing extravagant or out of the ordinary, but she was gorgeous and I knew it. I’m pretty certain we all believe our moms are beautiful and we idolize them. Or many of us do, especially when we’re little. Nothing shocking about that.

But what I remember most, from a very young age, is being very aware of how thin she was. Not that she was abnormally skinny, but definitely thinner than other moms. It was an observation that stuck with me, for sure.

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When I was young, as in elementary school age, I was stick-skinny. I ate and ate and was just long and lean. People used to ask me if I even ate food at all.

Until I hit puberty.

Then I became long-ish and round-ish. I quickly became well-developed (read: size C boobs at age 12) and packed on an extra 20lbs or so above my “recommended” weight. (I use that term loosely since weight charts are complete bullshit.) Point is- I grew fast and furious, as humans do. My body did what it wanted while I continued to eat what I wanted, within reason, as I believe kids should.

I was acutely aware of how fast my body was growing in those terrible middle school aged years when all of this body image shit starts. I remember being one of the only girls with big boobs in 7th grade and the boys would say things like, “I bet you can’t touch your elbows together behind your back”. Being young and naive, I would try it, as all the boys would laugh and look at my new developments. Middle school was the most evilest of years for me. I digress.

By the time I was in 8th grade, my mom and I were able to share clothes. I continued to grow taller, a bit thinner again, and my mom, who remained consistently thin, was able to fit into my size. She was young and fun and progressive so I didn’t blame her for shopping in the same clothing department where I found mine. (Mind you, this was the late 80s so think high waisted Guess jeans and oversized shirts. Nothing like today’s style.) And, I didn’t see the harm in it, I didn’t find it odd, and didn’t think too deep into it most of my adult life.

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Approximately a year ago, when my daughter was 7, she and and I were in the shower together. She was staring at my belly, then would look at her own and poke at it. She said, “I’m chubby. I’m not skinny like you”.

I literally stopped in my tracks.

“CHUBBY?! NO YOU ARE NOT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW.”, almost yelling.

I wanted to immediately and completely erase those thoughts from her mind. And my mind spun with how this vocabulary even got into her brain since I was always cognizant of using words like “chubby”, “fat”, or any sort of negative connotation in relation to body image since I spent several years of my adult life being overly concerned with how much I weighed, at one point even being diagnosed with anorexia. If I’m being honest, I’m still far too preoccupied with weight. However, I am bound and determined not to bring these issues into her life.

It turned out that someone at school that day had called her chubby so, on that very day, she became aware that she has a body and that we have societal views of perfection. And it made me sad. And it made me angry. And it made me reflect on my own image of body awareness and perfection.

It made me realize, I always wanted to be skinny because my mom was skinny and skinny equaled beautiful. I fault society for telling us this everyday, and I also saw it at home. I wanted to always fit in her jeans because she fit into mine and that’s how I started to measure beauty. Because as women, our measurement of beauty has no other option but to start with our mothers. They’re our yardsticks for everything so body image and beauty are certainly no exception.

Listen. (Especially to you, mom. Listen.) Do not misunderstand. I do not blame my mom for all of my body issues because we shared a few pairs of jeans in 1989. She did nothing wrong.

It’s certainly more than fine that my mom was thin and healthy. It was wonderful to grow up with a mom who valued healthy eating and fitness. It was absolutely ok. And I do not begrudge moms for taking good care of themselves, being fit, looking younger than their ages, getting botox or whatever else women do to become their image of beautiful. I.do.not.judge. I exercise, I shop in the junior department, and I even dye my hair pink. I love pretending to be younger than I am.

However.

I believe what we need to be careful of is creating competition with our daughters.

The thing is, our daughters are their own people with their own bodies and their bodies shouldn’t look like our bodies, and vice versa, even if they do indeed look similar in size and shape. When we buy the same clothes as our daughters, share clothes with our daughters, it’s riding that fine line of wishing we were still their age, almost pretending we are still their age, and being more of a peer to them than their mom. We’re forcing them to draw comparisons to us when we share these intimate similarities with them. They can’t help but compare how their bodies look in the same article of clothing. It’s a natural response to compare. These can be dangerous messages no matter how much of a bond it feels like you’re creating by sharing things.

Multiply in the additional pressures of growing up today: the advances in technology that give us a voyeuristic view into how celebs look and dress. The make-up, the lip fillers, the shorter shorts, the diet fads. Christ, the Jenner girls alone have made girls feel like they all need to be supermodels and look all grown up by the age of 14.

So, we need to be there for them on a different level. Because we’re their moms, their safe place, their rock, their elder, their role model, but we also have a responsibility to show them that beauty looks so very different on everyone.

Does this mean we all have to wear mom jeans, Polo shirts, matronly dresses and ditch every stitch of sexiness to show the hierarchy of motherhood? Of course not, but there has to be a balance and because I lost my parenting manual, I don’t know that I have a formula for that balance, but what I do know that putting an emphasis on still fitting into a jean size that I was in high school isn’t something I need to impress upon my kid, even if it boosts my ego. I do not need to create the belief that this is of importance in life. Because it isn’t.

I obviously hope that she picks up on my healthy habits- exercising, making decent food choices, good hygiene, etc. All of the things we try to pass down to our kids to make them the healthiest version of themselves, but emotionally, I don’t need her to value a body shape or size over another. Therefore, my jeans will be different from her jeans, even if they happen to be the same size.

It’s a lesson to me, too, which is really the point here: self acceptance. When I learn to do that, so will my daughter. And also? To accept the aging process, to acknowledge that a woman in her 40’s really has no business shopping at Forever 21, even if they can. Because we aren’t 21 forever. And that is ok.

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The Sneaky Moments of Motherhood

Motherhood is full of moments. Moments that are new, moments that are scary, moments that are frustrating, moments that are full of emotions. Motherhood is this string of moments that sometimes just seem like one long, everlasting moment.

Sometimes you wish for these moments to disappear forever. You wish some away so desperately, because they’re fucking hard. Sometimes you wish you could remember what you felt like in certain moments because things happen so quickly. Time is so accelerated within motherhood. Sometimes you wish you could relive the moments over and over and over because they’re so full of love.

Tonight, I had a moment.

It was a moment with a familiar emotion…but it’s an emotion I have a difficult time describing. It was a moment that I have a difficult time explaining. But it’s worth noting because I know every mom feels this. I know we all have these moments.

It’s this moment of realizing that your child is yours. That your child is growing. That your child is maturing. That your child isn’t little anymore. They’re these moments you realize…it’s happening. They’re becoming…them.

It’s this moment that I can only describe as those “sneaky moments”, because, for me, it’s an emotion that totally sneaks up on me and surprises me from time to time. It overwhelms me.

These moments aren’t to be confused with those of “firsts”. Not like their first word, first step, or first day of school. They aren’t to be confused with moments we’re flooded with pride because of good grades, or a good game, or where their kind heart shows. It isn’t that feeling of simply feeling how much you love them or appreciate their existence.

No. None of those are the same.

Tonight, as I was watching my daughter get ready for bed, she put on some music. This song Capsize that she loves. She sang every word, words that I couldn’t quite make out, but she knew them. She sang these words with such passion and confidence. She was brushing her hair and singing as she looked in the mirror.

She didn’t know I was watching. I was just observing her. All 4’5″ of her 8 year old self. All 74lbs of her.

It wasn’t anything new or out of the ordinary. But I had that sneaky moment. That moment where her life kind of flashed before me.

That moment where I realized she is the same human that was once 7lbs2oz in my arms. The one I didn’t know what to do with as a newborn. The toddler that that loved the word “uh-oh” and that hated sleep. The one that loved her purple baby and her green hospital pacifiers. The one that hated P.E. in kindergarten and didn’t want to learn how to ride a bike until she was almost 7. This is that same little, tiny human that grew inside of me. None of this felt possible in this moment, it didn’t feel real.

These moments take my breath away because it’s kind of too much to take in. It’s too much to reconcile in my mind that this is happening, this tiny human is growing up and becoming a bigger human. In these moments, it’s when I’m blindly reminded that I’m responsible for who she’s becoming and that she’s who she is because of me- the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s these moments where I catch a glimmer of me in her actions, or her body language, or her mannerisms.

It’s in these moments that I feel cheated because I let too many moments go by without noticing.

You know these moments?

I’ve had these moments before, like the time she told me she was embarrassed when I kissed her outside her classroom this past year. And like the time she told me I didn’t need to walk her to class anymore. Or, even in less obvious moments, like the one tonight, and sometimes it’s happened when she simply says something like, “Bye, mom. I’m headed out to play. I have my watch-phone on if you need me”.

Some days, these moments pass me by without evoking that feeling of sneakiness. They’re just another moment of motherhood. But, these sneaky moments. They’re real. They’re powerful. They’re beautiful, magical, scary, and almost frustrating all at the same time. Frustrating only because you know one thing is for sure: you can’t rewind, there is no replay. This is it. It’s happening.

I’m certain some moms have these moments more than others. I’m sure maybe these moments don’t even feel sneaky to other moms like they do to me. But I know we all know these moments. These moments, they’re different. They’re defining. They’re earth shattering, to some degree. They’re sobering because you’re reminded of the tremendous job we have as moms. The enormous and wonderful responsibilities we have to these little humans.

These moments are teaching us. Sit with these moments and listen. Absorb these moments. These moments are telling us ever so subtly to slow down. And they’re also telling us we are doing one hell of a job.

Don’t blink, mamas. The moments are all around us.

 

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The Function in Dysfunction

I talk a lot. Sometimes too much. I’m an over-sharer and sometimes I feel the need to word vomit in the most simple of conversations. It’s just who I am. Too transparent. But it’s certainly led to some interesting conversation.

I was talking to someone affiliated with my work world, someone I had just met, and she was asking me about life, in general: kids, vacations, etc. Just small talk. She asked if I was married and I said my usual, “No, but her dad and I are still in a relationship. We’re together but don’t live together”.

She gave me the same perplexed look that everyone else does. People don’t understand this type of unconventional situation. I get it. She is quite a bit older than me so she seemed more concerned than most do about my answer.

And then she said this: “Well…that’s an interesting set up. So much dysfunction for kids these days. I guess broken homes are the norm with all of the divorces. No one stays together anymore.”.

Dysfunction. I loathe that word in relation to describing a family.

Broken. I loathe that word in relation to a home.

It got me thinking- why, and how, on earth did we ever start describing families of divorce as “dysfunctional”?

Totally rhetorical but my annoyance remains.

This idea that divorce is synonymous with dysfunction and brokenness should not be perpetuated. Those are temporary states, or emotions, within divorce at times, but not adjectives that should describe families.

What a horrible label. It’s something that I have heard less and less of since divorces are so common, but these ugly words we use to describe families that aren’t the fairytale version of marriage and family- “dysfunctional”, “broken”? Let’s stop that.

My family is not dysfunctional. My family is not broken. And my child does not need to think otherwise. If her father and I would have stayed in a marriage, a relationship, which, at the time of separation was completely unhealthy- arguments, tension, unhappiness, amongst other things- wouldn’t that have been broken? Wouldn’t that have been dysfunctional?

The difference is now, yes, she has two houses. She spends the night at one house twice a week and the other house the rest of the week. There are challenges that go along with this. There is navigation involved. There were certainly concerns for my child when this drastic change was made, but at the end of the day, she has two parents that love her. She has a family that functions despite the title of “divorce”. We all still function. No one is broken.

Hearts might have been broken, sure, but they’re in some phase of repair and they certainly won’t stay broken, so let’s not call anything broken. We were living in more dysfunction before, prior to divorce. So let’s not call our new normal dysfunctional. Let’s get rid of that ideal, of that perfection, in relation to what families look like and how they function. Perfection does not exist. Anywhere. We all know this. Let’s stop with the stigmas.

Everyone functions because they have to. They navigate their new normal- all of us do that have been through a separation and a divorce. None of it is easy, most of it is not pretty. And it can certainly get downright ugly. But it was most likely ugly as the textbook definition of marriage, too.

It’s redefining. Not dysfunctional. Not broken.

We know our children do not go unscathed by divorce. We, as parents, we know this. We do not need ugly labels to reinforce this, however. We do not need this global idea that we simply gave up on marriage, that it was that easy. That we didn’t try. No one lives behind our closed doors. Only we know our reasons, only we know what we had to do to function and thrive the best way we know how.

This obviously also goes for divorced families that now have new marriages, maybe step-children. They’re beautiful, extended, blended families. At least most of them are. Not all of them are the families pictured together at the kids’ soccer games, or at Disney together, as one big happy family, donning the shirts labeled with their specific role in the family, (this just isn’t realistic for every family of divorce), but they all function to the very best of their abilities. They all love.

Once again, love wins. Love for our kids, it wins. Always. We, as parents, make every decision with our children at the forefront of our minds. That’s what we do. And the last thing we want is for them to be labeled as “broken” or “dysfunctional”.

Can we do better, collectively? Can we look at a divorce situation objectively and just silently acknowledge that this family did the best the could then and they’re doing the best they can now. I did not grow up as a child of divorce but so many of my friends that did are badass, full-functioning, successful, functional people. No worse for wear and definitely not broken.

All families are beautiful. They are all unique. They are all functional in some way, shape, or form. They do not need perfection. They just need love.

 

 

 

 

My 9 Reasons Why I’m Not Sure “13 Reasons Why” Should Be Glorified

(Warning: SPOILERS. Stop reading if you haven’t watched this series and intend to.)

Seriously.

Spoilers.

Lots of them.

13 Reasons Why.

Everyone had been buzzing about this show and I admit, I was immediately sucked in and finished the series in just three nights. At first, I praised the show, thinking I gained something from it as a mom, some understanding about how the teenage years work these days.

But the truth is, after I allowed the show to haunt me for two days after completing it, and after I’ve sat with it for over a week now, I now realize that I’m not particularly fond of some of it, and yet, some of it I feel is so necessary to discuss. I’m very torn which means it must be worth discussing. I don’t know that it’s at all helpful for parents or teens to watch… but it does bring up so many fantastic talking points that are so necessary to unpack.

And here are my 9 Reasons Why I think it might, or might not, be a bad idea to watch Hannah Baker’s version of suicide. Here’s what’s right and what’s wrong about it from a novice perspective:

1.) The theme of revenge.

Listen, I am not a suicide expert. I have never been suicidal, thankfully, but I have known a few people that had taken their lives at a very young age; I have been close to suicide professionally as well. And not one of them seemingly did it for revenge alone. They did it because there was so much darkness and hopelessness in their soul. They wanted their pain to end. They felt there was no place in this world for them. But. There was no specific, direct blame implicated.

Based on Hannah’s tapes left for her 13 reasons why she carried out her suicide, she was directly blaming specific incidents, and further more, the individuals behind the incidents, for taking her own life as opposed to the incidents adding to her darkness of depression. I believe those are two very different things. This idea that these 13 people (well, 12 since Justin had 2 tapes) were to blame does not make sense in the grand scheme of an actual act of suicide. It’s about being unable to bear the pain of life any longer for those that commit suicide. Their feelings surrounding certain life shattering events certainly may play into suicidal tendencies, I’m certain, but this message of blame feel dangerous in this series.

A dark, yet somehow cute, endearing way to get a message from beyond the grave using a cassette tape project seems somehow glorifying and intriguing (obviously, to get us to watch), not accurate or preventative. I do not believe a suicidal person would revengefully leave a message of blame, per se.

Suicide is about inner turmoil, it’s about mental health, not revenge alone.

2.) The darkness of depression.

Although I’ve never had suicidal thoughts, I have experienced depression. And it’s so very dark and hallow and isolated. Hannah’s feelings were constantly hurt by her peer interactions, which can certainly contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, but the series seemed to lack that depth and complexity into her soul. It focused far too much on the behaviors of others.

I get it. They were trying to send a message of self-awareness and being kind, but if you want to talk about suicide, you have a responsibility to talk about the dark depression, isolation, and hopelessness that goes hand in hand. It lacked this content. I wanted to see deeper into her. It was left too surface, too shallow.

3.) The graphic nature.

It’s my belief that many suicidal teens watched this show and will now copycat Hannah’s death. The whole scene: the tapes, the razors, the bath…

Suicide does not own a ton of logic because the depression speaks and carries out the act, so suicidal kids might see this as a vehicle, and not exactly as a tool for learning compassion or as a preventative to their own suicide.

It’s my hope that some got the message to be more kind but my fear is that more will use this as a way to send a message within their own execution. Teens just work like that. They’re egocentric. Their mindset is on the now. They don’t see much past tomorrow. And they’re dramatic. I do not think, for one solid second, that it was necessary to see her carry out the act of slicing her wrists and bleeding out.

Why, Netflix, was this at all necessary? If this was to raise suicide awareness, couldn’t it have been assumed? The raw effect had very little bearing on the impact of the message.

4.) Rape culture.

This was a huge theme throughout the series and one of the most crucial talking points for kids and teens. 1 out of 6 women will be raped, or attempted to be raped, in their lifetime. We must talk about it. It’s not getting any better and we actually are getting more desensitized to it. It certainly starts in these tender teenage years.

I believe this series got it mostly right in this realm. I believe the graphic rape scenes were necessary. Rape looks different in many situations. I believe both date rapes in the series show how it’s not as easy as simply saying “no” or fighting back aggressively.

It’s not about the victim, it’s about the rapist. It’s about power. It’s about control. And I believe that was accurately portrayed. The way victims of rape are treated was also accurate. Society loves to immediately victim blame when it comes to rape and we all felt like Hannah lost so much of her soul being in that room during Jessica’s rape and then being raped herself.

I am certain that many that watched this said such things as, “Why did Hannah go to Bryce’s that night if she knew he was a rapist?”, “Why didn’t Hannah fight more during her rape?”, these are important talking points for our kids, important for the directed conversation to be on the rapist, not the victim.

For me, the series could have been based on this rape culture effect alone, without the suicide, and it would have been fabulous. We need to talk about it. We need to talk to our young men about it. We need to make changes, big changes, in this space.

5.) Glorification of the Jocks.

I could write an entire post on my qualms with organized sports, especially male sports, and the adverse effect that it has on our children. So many people praise the positives that come from being “coachable”, and yes, there are some wonderful things that stem from being a part of a team, but one hugely ignored disadvantage is how we glorify these athletes and send them the message from such a young age that if they’re good at this one specific thing, this sport, that their worth immediately increases exponentially. More so than academia, more so than any other activity known to man. They’re paid the most in the professional sector, they’re idolized the most. They can do no wrong, shy of actually being convicted of murder. And it becomes so desirable at such a young age.

Teachers and coaches tend to give athletes special privileges, which is where it begins, where these athletes then don’t have to be as accountable for their actions. Bad grade on a test? Ah, it’s because there was a big game last night. Let’s look past it. Skipped class? Oh, that’s because you have to do some extra batting practice, no worries. All excusable.

This isn’t new. This has been a thing probably since the beginning of time. But does our society see the danger? Do we recognize how it’s contributing to rape culture and violence? We give these boys power when they’re the star of the team, we’re defining their worth by this. When this is the only message they hear, when this is where the importance is focused, this power becomes confusing in a young mind. It becomes too much. That power then tends to be abused by so many. I felt the series did a pretty good job recognizing this but I’m not quite sure that many see this correlation and the danger here.

6.) Bullying.

Bullying is clearly such a hot topic, especially with the horrors of social media’s contribution. The online community has made it brutal to be a teen, more so than it already was. I do not envy our children growing up in a society where they’re constantly looking for a reward when they open their smart phone. How many likes? How many comments? How many followers? So.very.dangerous. to one’s psyche.

It was clear that this was the underlying message of the series. Bullying is bad and terrible and hurtful and damaging.

But I thought they could have done better.

Hannah was well liked, all in all. Even after unfortunate pictures would circulate, Hannah still managed to be in with the “popular” crowd, have boys fawning after her, and had friendships. Many of Hannah’s “reasons” revolved around her sexual reputation, her sexual interactions, her sexual encounters and relationships.

Those that committed suicide when I was young might have been liked by some…but they weren’t noticed by many. They were invisible. Hannah wasn’t invisible. She didn’t shrink down. She never went unnoticed.

Bullying is isolating. Bullying is usually relentless. And bullying doesn’t always have to do with sex. I had a hard time believing Hannah was bullied in the specific sense of the word. She was sexually assaulted and treated unkindly at times, but I don’t know that this series should claim to target bullying. I felt conflicted by the messages.

7.) Hannah.

Hannah’s lack of self awareness bothered me the entire time. She was a victim of a lot of unfortunate circumstances, yes, but she also failed to recognize how she could have owned some responsibility, even within her own suicide. The series gave the ideation that reputation supersedes everything for every single teen in high school. I don’t believe that to be true. And Hannah’s character wanted to fit in, yes, I see that, but she was unapologetic about also being who she was…which was confusing as to how it led her to suicide.

It isn’t lost on me that this might be the aspect of suicide that I just don’t understand, however, Hannah never once mentioned herself in her own demise. She did not seem to be self loathing and I believe that’s an important component of a suicidal person. She seemed to fall more into the stereotype that suicide is a selfish act and that’s definitely problematic if we’re talking about awareness.

8.) Peer pressure.

Peer pressure is still very alive and well, probably more so than ever. Social influences are pressing our kids to grow up much too fast and kids are feeling that pressure to keep up. It’s not just alcohol and drugs anymore. It’s looking a certain way with plump lips, a tiny waist and big boobs at a very young age. It’s having the latest technology and the right hairstyle. It’s so much more than the generation before.

I believe that bullying and peer pressure are easily confused at times and have to be differentiated. However, they are certainly also intertwined at times.

Alex shot himself at the end, which was a bit of a surprise to me and it left me to assume that it was the peer pressure that maxed him out and caused his stress and depression. I believe he was actually the character we should focus on. He was more of the silent bystander of sorts. He was the one that just wanted to fit in, all while being picked on and pressured. I believe he sent the more accurate message of awareness.

9.) Netflix.

I wish you would have done better, Netflix. At the end of the day, I know this was supposed to be entertainment and you had a lot of great components here worthy of some awesome discussions, but where you lacked was the appropriate content to actually bring awareness to suicide and suicide prevention. I think you missed the mark. You did a fabulous job of scaring parents, for sure, and for that, perhaps the goal was achieved. We are aware that teens are scarier than ever before, so thank you. But all in all, I think you failed our teens with an overall conflicting message.

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For a far, far better watch with your teens, check out Audrie and Daisy. Real life stories of sexual assault and suicide.

Educate yourself here on suicide statistics.

And for parents, I found this link helpful.