About Parenting About Publishing Human

A Couple of White Moms Sitting Around Blogging

Toward the end of February, I posted my view of blogging about one’s children. Mom-blogger and photographer Camille Sheppard Dohrn commented with an opposing view so lacking in wounded anger that I contacted her with the following suggestion:

Toy sabers at dawn!

In response, Camille wrote she was happy “to throw open the conversation on both of our blogs, hoping for comments and thoughts from our loyal and faithful readers!”

With an exclamation point of my own to encourage healthy, respectful debate, we are on it. You can read my original post here, and Camille’s unedited response here. To continue:

Two years ago, I heard Philip Lopate speak. (If you ever can, do. It never hurts to sit at the feet of greatness.) He got a standard question for the personal essay set: How does your (fill-in-the-black relative; he got) mother feel about you writing about her? (It is not entirely flattering.) He said she wigs out on a continual basis, but he’s got her character “up and running.” All he need do is sit down to write, and out she pops.

Clearly, he understands the influence his publishing about her has on their relationship. He does not appear to care. One suspects he might even enjoy it. Lopate, however, is publishing about an adult. If he had the same opinion about his daughter, Lily, he would be a schmuck.

Is Camille schmucky? No. I think she, like so many parent-bloggers, has not thought it through from her children’s perspective.

Parents exist to meet the needs of their children, not the other way around. When told to take down the post, Camille did. That she is open to hearing negative feedback from a smaller, less powerful person who is dependent on her for survival says a lot about her parenting. That her teens felt they could share go her with their opinion says a lot the relationship she has fostered. I know plenty of 40- and 50-somethings who are afraid to be honest with their parents, and I would wager that their feeling of not being heard—of not counting as a full person—started early and was reinforced plenty.

On a seeming tangent: I like to wear v-necks. The cut supports the illusion that m’boobs are H-W-P. About three years ago, my son of as many years started telling me he was not comfortable seeing what we call “private parts.” Basically, I ignored him. My daughter started in on it when she was two. I began to pay attention. With a red face, I now see that the appearance of my breast size was more important to me than my children’s needs. At the same time, I was raising them to understand the difference between public and private behavior. To quote myself, “That is why they are called private parts.” All the while walking around, Cleavage Mama. As small as my children were, and as young and as powerless, they were aware of the contradiction. Lucky for me, they were comfortable saying so.

As much as I believe that mothers are sexual beings with the right to our sexuality, we can chose to support our children’s well-being over our own self-expression and vanity.

Additionally, it is my firm belief that blogging about one’s children is dangerous, but that is a different post. First, I would like to hear Camille’s response. And yours as well.

Human X-tra Credit: Soapbox and Such

Observations I Made Up Stuff About: The Vacation Edition

For writers, one of the best things about traveling is that someone else does all the cooking. Writers are supposed to be creatures upon whom no detail is lost. With apologies to Henry James,  I will proceed to take our vacation expenses off my taxes.

Observation #1: Girl (perhaps 3) screaming head off in wave pool.

Father: “You are not scared. You are not scared. C’mon. You are not scared.”

Horrified Girl:

Made up: Your father is human.

Observation #2: Girl (perhaps 13) wearing false eyelashes. In a hot tub. Carefully checks lashes after each and every dunk.

Made up: Your  mother is epically screwy.

Observation #3: Dad (perhaps Dad-aged) reprimanding Misbehaving Tot: “Don’t ever do that again!!”

Made up

Note: in the original post, I made up that both mother and father were idiots. This revision better suits the tenure of this blog. I am still debating the whole motherfucking thing.

About Parenting Human

“I spank my kid.”

In context of our conversation about verbal abuse, one brave soul confided: I spanked my daughter when she wouldn’t behave, and it worked. I’ve decided to keep spanking her.”

Certainly, spanking your child could reduce, even eliminate, whatever behavior is:

  • driving you nuts;
  • embarrassing you in public or in front of relatives; and/or
  • preventing you from doing what you want to do, finally, for ten minutes, finally, to yourself.

Yep, spanking might work. While they are young and small.

The problem is, a child is destined to grow. Their sense of self and their personal power will strengthen. Each and every hit lays down a layer of fear on the child’s part, fear that is matched or exceeded by anger. Compile those layers like a lasagna, and the child is likely to:

  • short-term take out their anger on smaller siblings and/or friends. This does not make for a child who is asked back for playdates. This makes for a lonely child; and
  • long-term realize she or he no longer fears you. Good luck to you, in those teen years.

So let’s stop whacking them around, shall we? When I want to smack a child, I make sure to put the child in a safe place and keep at least ten feet between the little shit and myself. I keep the distance until I can again see that child as acting their age in response to a situation set up by the adult in charge.

Should I be the alleged adult allegedly in charge, I apologize.

Here is a good anti-spank resource, and here is another. And still one more.


Screaming (at your children): The New Black?

We yell at our children because we can.

In Hilary Stout’s recent for The New York Times, the former Wall Street Journal editor references a national study where, of the 1,300 parents asked, two-thirds “named yelling — not working or spanking or missing a school event — as their biggest guilt inducer …  Parental yelling today may be partly a releasing of stress for multitasking, overachieving adults, parenting experts say.”

The eye-opener here is not that we do it, or that damages the children we love purportedly more than anything on earth. What Stout brings forward is that we are finally defining yelling for what it is: verbal abuse.

My childhood was loaded with abuse. While the physical and sexual elements were more immediately life-threatening, the verbal abuse was no less damaging. No one believed me … UNTIL NOW. (Dum dum dum!!!!)

PS. Yelling at each other in front of our children is just as abusive.

We also yell at children because we still can. Most of the avenues that used to be considered a parent’s right are now punishable by jail time. Not so with our dirty little secret. It and emotional abuse remain the adult way to off-load onto the most vulnerable everything from frustration to fury (see above: “releasing of stress for multitasking, overachieving adults”). I call that abusive.

Well, every parent yells. True, but: desirable? Would it make a difference if you heard instead: “Every parent commits verbal abuse.” If: “My parents yelled at me, and I turned out okay,” then: “My parents verbally abused me.”

After I yell at my children, I apologize. To them. “I am sorry I yelled at you.” I resist the urge to add, “Because you (list offenses).” That can come later, in a low-key chat. “Hey, loved offspring; when you yadada yadada yadada, I thought/felt (choose all that apply): Anger. Fear. Guilt. Shame. Lonely.

It doesn’t matter how Loved Offspring responds, or even if. What matters is that I apologized.

About Parenting Human

Life Work: Boundaries

K. from Seattle asks: You’ve mentioned having “epically screwy” parents.  Sometimes I think the reason I’ve never married is because I would never want to subject a spouse to the unpleasantness of interaction with my family. What is your relationship with your parents now and how does that affect your relationship with your husband?

My Dear K,

I am tempted to think of you as Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black, the first “old guy” I ever found sexy. I will refrain.

It is entirely human to respond to dysfunction by avoiding any connection with anyone or any thing that might bring about more dysfunction; marriage being one of them. Too bad it means you might die lonely.

My relationship with my parents is governed by clear boundaries. My relationship with my husband is affected when I let slip my boundaries. Good boundaries are the reason my marriage is not a repeat of my parents’. Good boundaries are the reason my children can be descended from the mentally ill and the pedophilic without me having to worry that they will be similarly afflicted. Good boundaries are the reason you can trust I am not fantasizing about Tommy Lee Jones when I said I wouldn’t.

I can’t say enough about developing good boundaries. Here is where go when I feel them slipping.