I am a mother and I am a writer. I want my kids to live their lives. I want them to grow and learn and make mistakes and find joy. I want all of that to happen without worrying about whether Mama’s going to post about it. On the other hand, I’m still growing and learning and making mistakes and finding joy. And I want to write about all that. And often it has to do with them. What a quandary!
I worry that my children may stumble upon my ramblings and think that I was critiquing them or being judgy about who they are. And when I have those fears, I often don’t write about subjects that could be helpful to others (or at least therapeutic to me). Because even though the writings are more about me and how I’m struggling through some moment or phase of parenting, I worry that their feelings might be hurt. Often that’s what happens.
Other times, I write.
Our eldest child, Jace, has always been incredible. When he was a toddler he taught me about construction equipment. As a preschooler he loved the color orange, cowboy boots, and bow ties. In elementary school I was 100% certain that he’d fulfill his dream of being a Marine. Now, as a clever-humored, football-focused, aiming-for-responsible teen, he challenges me more than ever!
His sense of humor is darker and more sarcastic than mine. The way he antagonizes his siblings drives me bonkers. The fact that he can push my buttons irritates me. And when he actually does push them, it makes me sad. And worried again. (Apparently I worry a lot.) Because if he can be such a jerk to his siblings and his mother and laugh about it…what will he be like around others?
Last weekend while drinking and conversating around a campfire with friends, I said something that I hadn’t voiced out loud since this incredible human being was only two months old*. I was asking opinions on whether he should be able to watch a PG-13 movie in which a woman’s breast is grabbed and a rude comment made. Most everyone shrugged and said something about how he was probably old enough to see the movie and not suffer permanent damage. I blurted out, “I don’t want him to think it’s ever okay to do that. I don’t want him to hurt someone and change their life forever.”
A friend, who in a lot of ways is like Jace, calmly said to me, “You’re worrying about that because you were hurt.” What a completely accurate comment that was. I knew it. But hearing it out loud….wow. Yeah. Something to chew on…
(*In case you didn’t already know, I was raped when I was thirteen years old. When Jace was two months old, I had a long conversation with him while he nursed one night about how not to be a rapist. I hoped that that one talk would be enough to calm all my fears and make him an upstanding man someday.)
On a seemingly unrelated note (but stick with me and it’ll all come together in the end), I recently taught Gracie, our daughter, how to shave her legs. This act reminded me of the first time I shaved. I’m pretty sure I was in fifth grade and had no guidance. I carefully took a razor to both my legs and both my arms. Snicker all you want. It’s what I thought was supposed to happen. Don’t know why I thought that, but what’s done was done.
That night I was at a practice for the school play. I was a townsperson in what I’m sure ended up being a fantastic presentation of Fiddler on the Roof. I was dancing with a guy who was several years above me in school. To set the scene – he had on a white t-shirt with two tye-dyed circles…where a woman’s breasts would be. He was voted class clown. He could have had a grand ol’ time at my expense with my freshly shaven arms. However, he took me aside during a break and asked if I’d shaved my arms. I shyly answered yes and he smiled and told me that girls normally only shave their legs. That was it. No pointing and laughing. No comments from his friends later on. I’ve always remembered and appreciated that kindness.
(Here’s where it all comes together.)
In chewing on the obvious realization that I’m worried about Jace screwing up some girl’s life (and his) because of my own history AND the recent memory about the kindness of an otherwise clown of a guy, I found myself thinking, “If you’re going to be an ass, be an ass like him, please.”
Jump out of trees and scare passers-by. Laugh at harmless jokes at your own expense. Be goofy and clever and, yes, even sarcastic. But, please, know how to treat others with respect, grace, and love. Please. Be like him. For me. Please.