You can be anything…as long as society approves

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When my now 13-year-old daughter was a toddler, we bought her baby dolls and strollers, Barney stuffed animals, cartons of books, a play kitchen, a little table, sparkly dress-up clothes, and pretend tools. We have picture after picture of her wearing a pink feather boa, high heeled shoes, and carrying a toolbox to go help “fix the house,” she always said. When she was three, she wanted to grow up to be Bob the Builder. Well, actually, she wanted to be one of the machines, but once we informed her she couldn’t become a machine, she chose Bob. For Halloween that year, she wanted to be Bob the Builder, so she was. Door after door, she was greeted with, “Oh, it’s Wendy!” even though Wendy has an entirely different costume and role in the show. She responded with, “No! I am BOB!”

When she got her new “big girl canopy bed,” she wanted nothing more than a Bob the Builder bedroom set. So, we bought her the comforter, pillows, sheets, and decor. And I set out on my first sewing project – making a canopy out of Bob the Builder fabric. When she needed to pick out new underwear, she chose…you guessed it…Bob the Builder. When she picked them off the shelf, it never occurred to her that they were boy’s underwear. She just wanted Bob the Builder. And so, my three-year-old daughter rocked it in her Bob the Builder undies! Some people were shocked that we would let a little girl do such a thing. Why weren’t we teaching her how to cook, hold babies, play with Barbies? The fact is we were, if she was interested. We were also teaching her how to fix things and use tools. Most importantly, we were teaching her that she could play with whatever she wanted, become whatever she wanted, that her gender didn’t matter.

My now 10 year old son came along at the same time my daughter was Bob the Builder. Just like with his sister, my son was allowed to do whatever he wanted without regard to gender roles. Especially having a big sister, he gravitated to things that were deemed “for girls.” He didn’t know, He just liked what he liked.Like his sister, we have plenty of pictures of him in the feather boa and high heels, wearing make up, nail polish, you name it he wore it. His sister taught him how to be a ballerina, and Dora was his first girlfriend. For his big boy room, he wanted Dora. So, we went out and bought the pink Dora sheet, some accessories, and assembled his Dora room. He, too, wanted a canopy, but I couldn’t find a canopy bed at the time. I was secretly thankful because sewing a canopy is no small or inexpensive task! He grew up believing he could be what he wanted to be, do what he wanted to do. Labels like boys and girls are just labels.

Now, at ten-years-old, we have a problem. Other kids don’t agree with our anyone can be anything attitude. He gets picked on for his blinged out NY City t-shirt that he absolutely loves. He got teases for his magenta sneakers. He was told he was too girly when he wore a feather in his hair to school that he had had put in at the carnival over the weekend. It seriously never occurred to any of us that other boys wouldn’t. He paints his nails on a regular basis, but somehow this is considered cool for boys to do. He has multiple pairs of shoes from the women’s department (sneakers and tennis shoes), because he likes the bright colors and the way they fit. He is all about sparkles, flowers, and what feels good.

Even moreso than with his sister, people are downright appalled that we would let him do such things! “Kids will laugh at him!” they say. “Only because their parents haven’t taught them better,” we respond. “People will think he is gay!” my father exclaimed. “We won’t be surprised when he tells us that he is himself. Nor will we care,” we respond. “He’s just looking to get picked on,” one adult leader had the nerve to say, after we reported one of the above incidents.

I tell my son those people who laugh aren’t worth worrying about, but when you are a ten-year-old child, those kids are your world. You are easily influenced, your identity is largely shaped by what your peers think of you. As a mother my heart breaks when my son is drawn to a clothing item or toy, but then puts it back because he doesn’t want to get picked on. I tell him I love him because of all that he is, not despite it. His sister, who normally fights with him like crazy, builds him up, helps him pick things that would be considered more acceptable within his range of likes.

This is just sad. Sad for him. Sad for our family. Sad for society. The message we send our children about gender roles and expectations hasn’t come nearly as far as we think. We, as a society, like to toot our horns and claim we have come so remarkably far regarding acceptable behaviors, but the reality is, we haven’t. Children tease other children because they haven’t been taught any differently by their parents. Children label “girl” and “boy” items because their parents have taught them that there IS a difference. Adults say they are okay with various sexual orientations, but the reality is it still makes a whole lot of people squirmish. It’s time we truly look at where we are as a society, where we want to be, and then take the necessary steps to get there. Before more young children get hurt, just for being who they are.

 

 

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Last but Not Least…Daily Prompt

The crowd cheers as my name is called. I walk slowly, in shock, to the podium, and prepare to give my acceptance speech. There are so many people to choose from, but I committed to just sticking to one. The crowd quiets, all eyes are upon me….

“There are so many people I could thank tonight for helping me make it this far, however one person stands out as the one I want to thank for always being there, always believing in me, and always understanding me without me saying a word. My best friend, the very best friend anyone could ever ask for. He knows me better than I know myself sometimes, has stuck with me even when I am sure I was being incredibly obnoxious, has never told me “I told you so,” even when he did. He never tells me I’m an idiot, even when I am. He always lets me think I’m in charge, which we all know, is a great way to handle a woman 🙂

In addition to being the very best friend, he is the very best business partner. His ideas are tremendous, and between the two of us, we could create an empire. His creativity is amazing, and his devotion to continuous improvement is to be commended. He inspires me to work harder and look more deeply at my ideas, even pushing me to think outside the box, or ball, or gnome, depending upon context.

Dreaming big is the way we think. Really Big. Our ideas always start out small, but somehow, by the time they are done, we have the most amazing product, with the greatest potential. I don’t know how we do it. Without my best friend, I would just be a pile of KFC buckets, duct tape, and sponges, with nothing to do.

I’m so proud to be able to accept this award because of the dedication and hard work we have done together. This accomplishment has been years in the making; so thank you!

Daily Post

The shame of it all.

While I have not experienced this with a doctor, I find it appalling. What happened to making great strides with reducing stigma?!

bipolarblogging

I had a little, um, incident this week.  Actually, the incident took place about a month ago, when I was caught outside in a rainstorm. I know, it’s been proven that running through the rain doesn’t get you any less wet than walking, but reflexes took over and I took off.  About 20 paces in, I heard a ‘pop’, and something in my knee gave way.  Ouch.

But I don’t have health insurance.  I knew there was something wrong, but since I am paying for healthcare out of pocket I decided I just needed to suck it up and wait for whatever it was to heal on its own.

That worked fine… for about three days.

I was sore, but not too terribly so: until I twisted just right getting my lunch out of the microwave at work.  The knee went ‘pop’ again, and down I went.  A coworker helped…

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I’m sorry – a letter to my children

Dear Children (the things I hold most dear to my heart, even when it’s broken),

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all the things I can’t be for you. I’m sorry no matter what I do it isn’t good enough. I’m sorry the football team your father signed you up for is no good, but I spend 3 hours a week driving you 20 minutes to practice and sitting there watching you every practice. I’m sorry your games are not fun, but I make you go and sit there watching your every move. I’m sorry that I have a missed a few (as in maybe 10 in 10 years) games or activities because I sometimes need a life of my own.

I’m sorry the house I work my butt off to provide for you isn’t good enough. I’m sorry that even though it is full of Nerf guns, countless footballs, arts and crafts, toy cars, and huge playground, bikes, scooters, sidewalk chalk, and anything else you could ever want or need, that there is “nothing to do” and you would rather go to your friends’ houses because it’s more cool.

I’m sorry I had a knee problem growing up that you, my beautiful daughter, inherited. I’m sorry I can’t take away the pain for you. I’m sorry the medication for it caused painful stomach problems. I’m most sorry you probably inherited my bipolar. I really wish I could take that from you. I’m sorry I let you roller skate one time without your wrist guards, causing a broken wrist that still causes you problems four years later. I’d do that over again, too, if I could.

I’m sorry I ask you to put down your electronics to come to dinner, help clean, or just spend time as a family. I’m sorry I can’t give you the best and latest of everything because all the money I do have goes into providing what you need. I’m sorry kids pick on you because you don’t have name brand shoes or clothes.

I’m sorry kids pick on your for your freckles, but I can’t do anything about that. I’m sorry you get picked on for wearing “girl clothes” as a boy because you love sparkles, pink, purple, flowers, and everything else deemed to be girly by your rude friends. I can’t do much about that either, except tell you that you are the best looking young man I know, freckles included. And that I love you because you love all those things that the other kids deem uncool. It is my greatest pleasure to see your huge smile when you pick out a glittery shirt, or your latest fashion, yellow and pink flip flops because they are pretty and make your feet feel good.

I’m sorry I couldn’t stand living in a loveless marriage anymore so that you could have the life I so wanted you to have. I’m sorry I decided I didn’t want you guys having the same marriage, and that I couldn’t get your father to go to counseling to fix it with me. I’m sorry you have to live in two houses.

I’m sorry I don’t remember where you left your medicine that you didn’t take care of. I’m sorry I can’t keep track of everything. I’m sorry I’m not a gourmet chef, and taking care of household chores is not my strong point.

I’m sorry I need to take naps on weekends. I’m sorry I cannot regulate my sleep schedule due having bipolar, no matter what medications I take. I’m not sorry for sparing you the details of everything I went through many years ago to treat it to make sure I was the best mom I could be for you. I’m not sorry for not even telling you until you figure it out on your own.

I’m sorry I cannot be everything I thought I would be as a mother. If I could change it, I would, but I can’t. I try so hard, but I’m only human.

And, finally, I’m sorry for not being able to take all your criticism and blame anymore and breaking down and crying. Especially on Mother’s Day. I know you love me, but most of the time I just don’t feel it. I’m sorry I’m not stronger so that I could tolerate it more. I hope some day you’ll forgive me, and understand that I truly love you more than anything I could ever express, even if I can’t be perfect.

Love,

Mom (the one who is proud of you in ways you will only understand once you have children)

Worst Case Scenario – Daily Prompt

Written in response to today’s Daily Prompt.

“It can’t get any worse,” I have been known to say, Or, “How much do you think I can handle, God?” On occasion, you might even hear my mutter, “I’m done, I can’t take anymore. Just let me be.”  You’d think I’d learn not to continue with this line of thinking, but I guess my stubborn brain just doesn’t work that way.

The last time I informed God that I didn’t think it could get any worse, he handed me a flat tire and a kid with strep throat. That combination is less than ideal, considering it is nearly impossible to get said kid to the doctor without four fully functioning tires on my vehicle. Luckily, a family friend was kind enough to come fix my tire so I could take my child to the doctor. As I was sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for the diagnosis on my daughter, I thought to myself, “why do I keep challenging God in this way?!”

A few years ago, after being bombarded with divorce, a rebound relationship gone bad, financial difficulties, and trouble at work, I made the mistake of asking God how much I could handle. Big mistake. I got sick, forcing me to take unpaid time off from work and receive a written warning from my supervisor. Why, oh why, do I continue to do this to myself?

It also seems that the more I think I am done and want to escape from the world, the more people need me. Just when I think I need a break more than anything, one of my kids has a sports or school event I can’t miss, the house needs some kind of major repair, a friend has a crisis and needs my help, or work becomes more demanding than ever. I always plow through it all like a trooper until I can find the time for myself to relax. Sometimes it take a long time to get there, but I eventually do.

You might be wondering if losing one of my children would be a worse case scenario. Make no mistake, that would be a devastating blow to my entire sense of being, however, it wouldn’t be as bad as losing both my children, or my entire family, and so on. What if I became homeless? That would be bad, but it could be far worse. What if I came down with cancer or another debilitating disease? That, too, would be terrible, but I know I would eventually pull through or find a way to make sure my children were cared for if I couldn’t.

Some people might think I am naive or wear my rose colored glasses when I say these things. Maybe they are right. What I do know, however, is that my strong and resilient attitude has gotten me through some situation I thought would be terrible one way or another. And, I have learned the hard way, that any of those sayings are just a recipe for God to hand me more. No matter what situation I find myself in, there is always something that could be worse. In short, there is no “worst case scenario.”

I am Mom

My son woke me up at 4 a.m. today to tell me his head, tummy, thImageroat, and ears hurt “really freaky bad.” He didn’t wake up his sister or the dog. He woke up me, because I am Mom. Later, when it was time to wake up, I realized he probably had an ear infection and needed to go to the doctor. I was three hours late for work for a 15 minute appointment. His dad wasn’t late. His aunt wasn’t late. His gramma wasn’t late. I was late, because I am Mom. When his father realized that my son forgot to bring his medication for said ear infection home, I left the comfort of my home to drive to his dad’s house to drop off the medication he would need. His dad didn’t drive over here. I drove over there, because I am Mom.

Yesterday, while my daughter was a doctor’s appointment about her injured knee, I texted her dad over and over to find out the progress. I worried that she had seriously injured it. I looked up all the different things it could be this time around. Her friend didn’t do it. My friend didn’t do it. Her teachers didn’t do it. I did, because I am Mom.

When my kids’ guinea pig died, I held a funeral in the back yard, praised what a great friend Miss Piggy was, and found a way to bury her so that the wild animals wouldn’t get to her and traumatize my children for life. Because I am Mom.

My job is 24/7/365, for almost 14 years and counting. I do not have the privilege of deciding today is not a good day for me to take care of my children, or to say I’m too busy doing something else. Even when they are at their dad’s house, I still do my fair share of watching sports, toting kids around, feeding, clothing, and generally caring for my children. I do not have the privilege of taking time off, but I do have the privilege of being Mom.

I know I am really going to tick some people off, so I will say right now, if you want to post your disagreements, please do so respectfully, or the comments will be deleted. On a related note, what I am about to say has been my view since I was a young child, so don’t be thinking that now that I’m a mom I want my day in the spotlight.

Mother’s Day is approaching. It is Mother’s Day. Not, Wants to Be a Mother’s Day. Not, I Love Some Kids a Whole Lot Even Though I am Not their Mother’s Day. Just Mother’s Day. I am not discounting all the wonderful things women have done for me and do for others. Without strong female role models and caretakers I would not be where I am today. However, these women are not my mother. I would no sooner wish them a Happy Mother’s Day than I would call myself a mechanic because I can change tires or check oil or replace air filters.

No one besides a mother, except perhaps a father, can truly understand the love, work, and joy that goes into caring for our children. This could be biological or adoptive mothers, but still they are mothers. Other women who care for children are to be commended for the great things they do to help make this world a better place, but that does not make them mothers.

I am truly sorry for all those women out there who have a lost a child, never been able to have children, gave their child up for adoption, or do not have children of their own for any other reason. But, please, I beg you, please do not negate the important work that moms do day in and day out by claiming you are “like a mother.” It just isn’t the same.

Letters-Photo Challenge

 

The clock ticks. Only two hours left to complete the rest of the test. Your very future rests in your ability to choose the correct letter time and time again. You thought you were prepared, and at first, things were smooth sailing. You’re halfway through, but you’re stuck and running out of steam. What is the question asking? You don’t know. What strategy were you taught? You can’t remember. What answers can you eliminate? Your brain is too jumbled to think about it.

You’re ready to throw in the towel, but failure is not an option. You need to pass to be successful in life. All your dreams rest in those four little letters. A. B. C. D. A. B. C. D. A. B. C. D. Over and over again.

Maybe you can randomly choose and hope for the best. Maybe you can fill in the circles to make a pattern, or maybe a boat. Yes, a boat sounds good. But you know the stakes are too high. There is too much to lose, so you keep chugging along.

You get toward the end. “Fifteen minutes remain,” the proctor announces. Oh no! You’re nowhere near finished! Now what? You’ll have to guess. With only seconds to spare, you manage to fill in the last bubble and raise your hand to have your materials collected. Phew!

You can rest for now, but soon the anxiety of waiting to see whether you will be a success or failure will set in. This is big business. You must pass this test. Afterall, you are 8.

Photo Challenge

(photo credit: http://www.teachthought.com)