I’m having trouble with the word tough in relation to my 10-year-old boy. I hear the phrases “toughen up” and “mental toughness” thrown around a lot when raising a boy. Funny, these same phrases are never used with regards to my daughter, but that discussion will have to hold for another time, as I could write an entire book on gender inequalities. But back to my son.
Since he was 10-months-old the theme of toughen him up has been consistent. “Let him cry it out” when he didn’t want to spend the night in his own bed. “Don’t react” when he fell off his bike. “Teach him a life lesson” when dealing with difficult teachers or friends. And the latest, “he’s not mentally tough enough” from a coach. What is our society’s obsession with toughening up our boys?
I recently heard the term “the Wussification of America” used to describe the latest generation of kids. Examples of this “Wussification” included yoga for children, fines for poor sportsmanship, paid internships, and even in regards to the new common core math strategies. While I do agree that we need to teach our children not to be victims in life, why is the only alternative mental and physical toughness?
In my opinion (and yes it’s just an opinion, you can have yours and I can have mine) I’m not sure the message of “go out there and be better than everyone around you” is working. And I’m not exactly sure we are using the right definition of tough when discussing our youth. Sure life is a competition but shouldn’t it be a competition with yourself? Be the best you? Pushing yourself through the challenges. These advocates against the wussification of America would rather kids tough it out through cyber bullying and hear a few curse words from their coaches to get motivated. Isn’t this just desensitizing our children and leading to the loss of value on human life? Why is positive reinforcement and empathy a sign of weakness.
Believe me when I say, I don’t have the answers. I go back and forth with this argument, which is exactly my point. This is a gray topic. No we shouldn’t raise entitled kids but at the same time, why does my 10-year-old need to be mentally tough with regards to playing soccer? Aren’t we continually lowering the age for the amount of pressure kids can handle? Can’t pure enjoyment and the goal of learning be enough for right now. And as a mother, how long do I let my child exist in a dynamic that I myself don’t agree with to “toughen him up” for the apparent competitive world he is living in. Or is he actually developing the mental toughness when dealing with this dynamic?
As I write and re-read this I am no closer to an answer than when I wrote the title of this post. This argument goes around and around in my head with no apparent end. I will say that being a parent is the toughest job I have ever faced and I believe that is the proper usage of the term.
Years and no bags under my eyes ago, I decided what each Thanksgiving needed was a little journal that everyone would write in to say what they were thankful for each year. I pictured myself digging out this journal in my 60′s and looking back at the wonderful family I had created and laughing over how silly little Johnny’s “I’m thankful for turkey” entry was way back then. Ah, the memories.
So at the request of my mother, since we’ll be with extended family this year, I dug out the Thankful Journal. I eagerly cracked it open in the hopes of finding antidotes I had forgotten and loving tributes to each other. However, leafing through the last decade of entries, I have come to one overwhelming conclusion…damn we’re weird!! From the “year of the pink eye” to being thankful for a non-collapsing lung, our thankful journal reads more like a Monty Python script than “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Which brings me to a realization (which I think I secretly already knew), I’m surrounded by nuts. Now before you condemn me for insulting my family in this time of thankfulness, know this…it takes crazy to know crazy. I’m not leaving myself out of this circus. I was reminded of the year I soaked the cornish game hens in a lake of salt water and we were all dying of thirst for the next three days and how my husband was so very thankful that I gave him money to go to the Bucs game. I think my son’s first entry was that he was thankful for dessert.
But seriously, the thankful book has done exactly what it was supposed to do, preserve memories of how we were feeling in that moment. From pink eye to poems, it did just that.
And so in this season of thankfulness, I leave you with this wise quote I read somewhere...”Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s nut that held its ground.” Here’s to all the mighty oaks in my family! I’m so very thankful for all of you.
“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.” ― Dorothy M. Neddermeyer
When you have to remind yourself to breathe it’s usually not a good thing. Obviously the act of breathing is involuntary, but we all know the feeling when you feel like the simple breathe is not enough to stop the butterflies from swarming. I’m feeling a bit like a duck today. Calm and collected on the surface but frantically thrashing underneath. I am finding that no matter how much I strive for inner peace, it is just slightly out of my reach. Is it like that for everyone? Or is it just me? Do we all forget to breathe sometimes? Let the butterflies in our stomach take over? The most annoying part of it all, is that I’m allowing another person to determine my mood, my self worth, my story, my sleep. This is the same thing I tell my children to never do in response to the “He made me do …” or “She made me feel…” I’m constantly staying to them, “Nobody can make you feel or do something. You always have a choice.” And yet as I sit and write this, I’m allowing someone else to make me feel something negative. And I’m screaming at myself (no not out loud, I don’t want everyone knowing I’m a freak) “STOP IT!!!” “Let it go” “This does not define you.“
A funny thing happens when you stop and focus on your breathe and your thoughts. You actually feel the physical exertion of thinking. Forcing the negative thoughts out and suffocating them with the positives. It’s hard to do this without diminishing the actions or beliefs of others, especially the ones who have initiated this need for pause. But it forces the recognition that there are really only a few basic truths in our lives. Love someone else, be a good person, do your best in all you do, and have the ability to forgive.
And so with a deep breathe…I begin again.
My husband has always said I give my children too much information. “Short and Sweet” he tells me. Well anyone who knows me knows the only thing short about me is my attention span and sweet is how I like my coffee. Soooo, moving on to the latest time my husband’s short and sweet advice could have come in handy but didn’t (spoiler alert, because I didn’t listen to him…again).
There I was, finally sitting down for the night, watching a little of The Voice with the family, when out of left field my 9-year-old son casually asks me “When you want to have another baby, do you just say ‘Hey, I want another baby’ or do you do something?” WTF?!?! Where the hell did that come from? Who is he talking to? What 3rd grader is telling my kid about sex? Did he use his Itouch to go online and see something he shouldn’t have? Why is this happening now? It’s too soon! On a Wednesday no less! No, no, don’t overreact. Get more information. So I pushed my eyes back into their sockets, very casually closed my gaping jaw and oh so nonchalantly countered with the ever popular momchologist response “What do you think happens?” To which he replied “I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking you.” Dammit, counter attack. Mind you, child #2 and husband #1 have no idea this very important conversation is taking place just inches from them. I believe child #2 was in mid Karaoke at the time and husband #1 might have been napping.
I realized that I wasn’t in the position to launch into the birds and the bees discussion while Adam Levine was critiquing, so I did the next best thing. “Honey, we’ll talk about this later.” And then I announced it was bedtime.
As the kids brushed their teeth I pulled my blissfully unaware husband aside and recounted the whole thing. “Really?” he said “At 9 he’s asking this?” Yes, I confirmed. It was almost time for the SEX talk. “Listen” I said to my husband “I’m just going to tell him that his question was a big one and I’m glad that he’s curious, but Daddy and I need to figure out how to talk to him about it and when we do, we’ll let him know.” To which my short and sweet husband said “You don’t need to say all that. Just tell him you’ll talk about it later.” Ahhhh! Doesn’t he know that we are on the precipice of whether or not our child comes to us with the uncomfortable and embarrassing questions. Doesn’t he know that it’s up to us to create this welcome, non-judgmental, safe environment. Doesn’t he realize that if we don’t tell him first, some 3rd grader is going to tell him a really bad version of it and then he’s going to come home and look at us and realize that’s what we did to get him and his sister and the gross out factor will have gone up 200%. No, this was not going to be short and sweet. I had to carefully not answer the question, while warmly keeping that door of communication open.
So with my husband eyeing me suspiciously as I tucked in my 9-year-old boy, I repeated the phrase I had practiced on my husband minutes before. He nodded quietly and then innocently said “Did you know, that all mammals give birth to live babies? I found that out when I was doing my science homework on animals and their babies.”
And there it was…
Didn’t sleep much last night and today I’m on the verge of tears as I sit at my computer. I’d like to say I’m strong in the face of adversity and that I see all the helpers but the resounding feeling I am having isn’t strength, it’s fear. I know we aren’t supposed to live in fear because then evil wins but for today, I’m scared. I’m scared that the things we once saw on the news in far off places of unrest are now outside our door. I’m scared to fly on airplanes. I’m scared to leave my babies at Elementary School. And now I’m scared to have my family come cheer me on at races. And being scared makes me angry.
We all move through our lives trying to accomplish our goals, help others, raise a happy and healthy family, and be at peace with the choices we make. Senseless acts of depravity and devaluation of human life makes every day like a marathon. Being a runner and having run a marathon, the mental game is unlike any other. The fight between your body and your mind during that 26.2 journey is torturous, exhilarating and exhausting. One thing you learn after running a marathon is you can do anything you put your mind to.
And so, my next marathon task will be to live my life despite the fear. To feel the fear and do it anyway. So I will take today to be scared and sad and mourn those runners, families, and all those people in Boston that will forever be changed. And tomorrow I will put my running shoes on and run.
As I move towards the 2nd half of my life (notice I didn’t say “get older’), I’ve started what I foresee as the lifelong scrutiny and battle with my body and mind. Not just the aesthetic, outer portion, but the interior as well. I find it increasingly important to understand what the hell is going on in there. And actually, the more I delve into the inner workings of the body, it’s quite impressive that we even get out of bed in the morning considering the way most of us treat our bodies. Yet we tell our feet to hit the floor and our ass to get up and it does…most of the time.
My 30s are starting the resemble portions of the movie Weird Science. Put a little of this in, take a little of this out, bwwwaaahhhhhaaa, what have we got!!! I can tell you one thing…it aint no Kelly LeBroc. For a control freak, not being able to control what is going in inside of you is beyond aggravating. Forget the bags under the eyes that we all get from allergies and years of not sleeping because of lost blankies, bad dreams and bed wetting (two out of three of those examples weren’t about me.) Now, we have to worry about what is chemically going on inside our bodies. How the food breaks down. If we have too much estrogen or not enough. WTF! I thought our bodies were these miracles?
Over the past 30 days I have ingested vitamins, minerals and supplements. I have eliminated sugar, dairy, carbs, beans, and basically taste to eat like a caveman. And now I’m slathering myself daily with something that’s supposed to be magic in a cream. All in the hopes of, let’s just admit it right now, getting back to my 20s. Ahh, my 20s. I never really understood it until this year. When people would say “I miss my 20s” I thought they were talking about going out and partying and meeting guys. The years of no kids and minimal responsibilities. Now I know the truth. Those were the days where you could eat pizza three times a day and still fit into your skinny jeans. When you didn’t cry every time your daughter flooded the bathroom…again. When someone whistling didn’t make you feel like bashing their head against the wall. In other words, the years of hormonal balance.
I know, this too shall pass. I’ll wade my way through the Dr.’s appts. telling me I’m pre-menapausal and imbalanced. I’ll work out twice as hard as that skinny, 20-something bitch jogging on the treadmill and talking on her phone. I’ll take horse pills morning and night and swear “I feel it working!” Because at the end of the day, I know that my 40s are just around the corner. And if the 20s are carefree and the 30s are the battle years, I’m due for the “I don’t give a shit” decade.
Till my next enlightened moment,
Your Hormonally Challenged Control Freak
As I was doing my hair this morning getting ready for work, I heard the sweet sound of “Zippity Doo Dah, Zippity A. Wonderful feeling, Wonderful Day…”This beautiful, carefree melody was coming from my daughter’s room as she too was looking in the mirror and getting ready for her day at school. The sound made me smile and as I returned to my hair I thought to myself how wonderful it must be to want to wake up and sing Zippity Doo Dah. To be six and carefree. I like to think that these moments in life happen for a reason. To make you realize what is important and fleeting. The jobs, the bills, the deadlines, the responsibilities…not important. My little girl’s singing while she gets ready for school will be on my mind today while I plow through my to do list. Reminding myself to smile when I feel my brow crease or breathe when I forget to save a file. My goal is to remind myself take a minute out of every hour and think of why I woke up this morning. To take a minute at the grocery store to smile and say thank you to the deli slicer. To take a minute in the car to listen to what really happened at school today. To take a minute to kiss my partner goodnight. To take a minute to really look someone in the eye today and smile. And to take a minute in the morning rush to listen to my baby singing. All these minutes add up to a more zippity doo dah kind of life.