Monday, August 28, 2017

Looking backward

Much like many of you I see a lot of memes on FaceBook and Instagram, some of them so clever I tip my imaginary hat to the person who created it and some so ridiculous they make me laugh.

I see a bunch of them with the Like and Share option at the bottom that go something like this - group of kids, picture roughly from 70s or early 80s based on clothes, outside and the tag lines are lengthy tomes to days gone past, childhood activities that I engaged in as did many of those of my or older generations and inevitably they end with "I am glad I grew up then and not now or Too bad kids these days will never know the joy of" like and share.

Yes I had fun doing those things that most parents today would not let me do  - run around the neighborhood without supervision, without cell phones, with streetlights to guide me to my curfew for most of my childhood.  I rode in cars without seatbelts to go to the beach with baby oil, SPF no where to be found.  I drank from and partook in opening fire hydrants, played tag in the street with parked cars for base and on coming traffic being dodged.  I made my own play dates by knocking on doors and asking if someone could come out and play.  I watched R rated movies by sneaking into the theaters and watched like 6 movies on hot summer days while paying for one - the a/c was a good thing.   I jumped subway turnstiles and no one tracked my phone, since they didn't exist, to know that the place I claimed to be was no where near where I actually was.   TV was on when I did my homework and the phone was attached to my ear as it was to the wall cord.

That nostalgia is great - it doesn't mention that crime rates in NY where I grew up were about double than they are now, so no people it wasn't "safer" as that statistic applies nationwide.  It doesn't acknowledge that kids disappeared, that pedophiles existed but we did not talk of those things, that kids were abused.  We did not know the sexual predator moved in because there were no sex crime registers to alert us to that.   You knocked on doors and for the most part you were safe but no one told us to watch it even when they probably should have.   Teachers sometimes abused kids physically and verbally and we kept it to ourselves because rarely was our side taken so it continued and for some scarred forever.

We do not talk about the crack vials I saw rolling around subway cars or that the kids who were in need of special services were highly unlikely to get them or even be identified to need them, they were odd, weird, tortured often, too often.  There were kids who were gay when we were growing up and there were kids were transgendered it is just that we did not think of what they needed, we did not think of them at all or if we did we were too often told they were abnormal.   Those children do not look at these memes with fondness, that was a dark time for them.

There were good times then and there were many things that we have evolved from, sadly not enough and not all of us.  This nostalgic look is often about our need to hold on to our youth, our wonder at the great times and people that were and may still be in our lives and for some a false reality of a time that exists as "perfect" but in reality at best was "perfect" for them at the expense of others.

Kids today will grow up and see their own version of memes, whatever they will be in the future - holograms per chance.  They will pine for days of apps that were not virtual reality based, for days when they do whatever it is they are doing today.  They are not missing out they are growing up doing the things they need to that make them happy.  Their kids will roll their eyes and not see what the "advantages" were just like ours smile and nod at our stories.

It is good to share our stories with our kids, they will see us as the kids we once were, funny, confused at times, feeling things they might be feeling.  They will get a kick out of how "hard" life was, goodness how did we survive without On Demand and streaming services?.   They will find us retro. We all wish we had the freedom of childhood that you appreciate so much more as an adult.   It is not better it is just different.

I look backward, kind of like I flip through pictures, to smile at that moment in time not to pretend that it represents every moment of that time.   It is ok that our kids are not growing up like us for me - they are growing up like them and maybe we could learn a few things from that too.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Raising Sons

Image result for mother with two boysI remember being pregnant with my first child and knowing that I would find out the gender of the baby. Now some people like to wait, for the surprise they say, I for one wanted to know.  I also quickly found out after giving birth that there is no lack of surprise, for knowing the gender means you know almost nothing anyway once the baby comes.  I wanted to know because I wanted to prepare for the colors, not a big fan of mint green stuff and yellow that seems to be norm when you don't know, and I wanted to think of a name.   It was same with second child.

As a pregnant mom I thought it would be crucial that I take a baby class, I did not babysit and neither had my husband, my exposure to babies minimal and frankly I am not a baby person.  They smell good and can be super cute but I was never one to rush across a room to offer to hold a baby. In case you are wondering I did question my maternal instincts as I was a hormonal, pregnant mess but apparently and luckily for my boys they kicked in as needed.   I still do not rush across a room to hold a baby.

I was and am shocked at how many times I have been asked the most bizarre questions about being the mother of boys or been offered sympathy for they must be "a handful".   Aren't all children a handful?  Even when they are not misbehaving they are challenging because they are ....kid.  Not boy kids or girl kids but just kids.    I know my friends who have girls get the same unsolicited sympathy "ooh you have to be careful".   Don't we all have to be careful and teach our kids how to make good choices no matter if they are boys or girls.

I love my boys and the older they get the more I enjoy the way we interact.   I had fun when they were little with them, was amazed to see them develop and now am watching them evolve.  I had a long discussion with my oldest son the other day that went something like this.

Me "I am a feminist"
Him "No you are not"
"Umm yes I am why would you say I am not" sit up on couch, defiant tone in my voice evident even to me
"Because you know ... because those people hate men"
"Please stop right there you are talking about extreme people who may just also be feminists and I am talking about feminists.  Do you even know what a feminist is?' Tone calmed down since apparently there is nomenclature not sexism at play in son
"Yeah they don't like men "
"No baby they just want the same rights and opportunities as men.  I do not want to be a man, never have, I like being a woman and I like all those things that make me a woman but I just want not to be told I cannot do something because I am one and I want to be paid equally for whatever job I do that a man might be doing"
"You sure that's what a feminist is?"
Ends in hug ... long discussion ensued all good.

Raising sons for me includes teaching them to be kind, prepared for choices and fair.  Raising sons means teaching them about their physicality - that they are strong, that they can overpower or that they can use that strength to help when someone isn't strong enough.  It means teaching them that what they constantly say they love about their mom is that she is a feminist even though the word has taken on a negative connotation.   Amazing how media has made people asking for equal rights into some weird fringe element - shouldn't people who want to mistreat others based on appearance be the ones feeling like the deviants?

It means having hard conversations with them about the power of permission that has to be given to them when they are with a partner.   It means telling them to be careful with potential sexual predators.  It means teaching them that it is amazing to be a man, to be who they are, to understand that they should be proud of themselves, confident to pursue their dreams and that all of that comes with the help and support of others not at the expense of others.

It also means that I need to understand that they are different than I am, in reactions, in emotional intelligence and that I am here to help them grow into men not to make them into my image.  I think that might be a good parental lesson for raising kids and one, difficult but needed, to follow.

I think I am raising good kids, not perfect ones, good boys who will be great men and amazing people.  I still get the ridiculous "I bet you wished you had a girl" statement at times, but frankly no.  I did not wish to have girls or boys I wanted and got to have children who I admire for who they are - and I got that.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Money, money, money

There are two songs that come to mind when the word money comes up for me.  The first is ABBA's "Money, Money, Money" and the second is "How much is enough?".

I am pretty sure that is not unique to me but putting it to music might be.  Music is never far from my mind and it is background in my head for most of the things that mean something to me.  Before you wonder I do not mean I hear music and not understand that it is a conscious addition to the emotion I am feeling - meds not needed (yet).

Recently was texting with my friend who is reading a book about the relationship we have to and with money.   As a woman of 50, as a woman period, money and I have a relationship.  It has not always been a healthy one and yet it was also an empowering one as a woman.  It is now becoming a side note as a means to the end that it should be for me. 

I do not understand the whole "you don't need money" line.  Usually uttered by those who do not need money, because anyone who has ever struggled with it knows you do need it.  I am not sure how those "you don't need money" folks pay their bills, manage their basic needs without it, hence my sarcastic cynicism when I hear it.  They often "do not need it" because someone has always made sure they get it if they do.  

We revere it, we make it evil, we want it, we hate that others have it, we blame those who don't and on a personal level it makes multiple parts of our lives possible. 

Interestingly enough it is money, or your lifestyle as currency, that is often quoted as the root of all evil. That's some power we ascribe to it.  For me money is not the root of all evil, or evil.  It is power and money used in conjunction with small minded meanness that makes it from a means to ruthlessness.

As we get older we hope we have enough to not be a burden during the part of our lives where we no longer are working.  We wish to be independent, to be able to help our children as much as we can so they too learn to think about money without wondering how much is enough and switch to thinking how much do I want to be as (insert career choice here).

As a parent I have always taught my kids, so far, that money is not infinite, nor easily replaceable while also giving them not only things but experiences.  I spend my money when I can on vacations with them, I have not replaced expensive electronics because they lost or broke them until they could save up some contribution to the replacement or fix.  I want them to know that it may be only  $5 but that $5 is part of a bigger pot of money that we use to give them the things they have.    I am not sure yet how well I am doing since they are quite young.  

The harder part is something I needed to teach myself.  You cannot fill a void with money, you can pretty it up, you can cover it in lovely things but you cannot fill a void.  It is easier to do it with buying things but it is like the little boy holding the finger in the dam.  If something is not fulfilling I am now looking for what that is and then looking to see how I can appreciate myself enough to know I deserve that void filled.   

Money doesn't buy happiness but it does make things happier to not have to worry about how to pay your bills.  If we have extra maybe we pay it back to others without having to forgo our entire share. It is ok to want and have the higher end things in life but maybe we can take a page from the minimalists and stop before we have more of those things that we can ever use.   I want to have money to continue to travel, to eat at great places, to buy my artist supplies (and boy are they pricey), to write on the gadget of the future and yes to have some things I really do not need but just want.  I do not rely on money for the contentment that I will find enjoying a walk on the beach, time spent with those who care for me and I for them, laughter, passion and all those other experiences that I plan on keeping priorities. 

Money, money, money we can manage it but it should not manage us.