July 31, 2011

Full Disclosure

It seems like the topic of the moment for me is What Not To Say to my three-year-old.

I don't have much of a filter. I do have one, but apparently it's a different brand of filter than everybody else is using. I was the kid in grade school reading Forever by Judy Blume and The Color Purple by Alice Walker (this actually got confiscated from me in third grade because the teacher didn't believe I was allowed to have it). Although my mom and I went through a bit of a religious phase when I was in high school, most of my upbringing was pretty feminist and direct.

Now that I have a kid who can talk I am confronted with the question of how much actually needs to be said. We don't swear around our kids. We don't allow our kids to watch adult TV. But if she asks me a question I answer it. And I say what's on my mind.

Let's break down some recent events:

1) On the show Go, Diego, Go! a jaguar and a duck were singing about how nice it is to be friends. I said "In real life that jaguar would eat that duck." My mom turned to me in horror and said that was a terrible thing to say to a three-year-old. Was it? My husband hunts and fishes. Exactly how long is my daughter going to make it through life thinking ducks and jaguars can pal around happily?

A counterpoint to this: when we visited the new butterfly exhibit at the zoo recently my daughter killed a butterfly. She didn't mean to. When we entered the exhibit the guide told us the butterflies may land on us but we absolutely were not allowed to touch the butterflies. I repeated this to Bethany at eye level, making sure she understood. The minute we entered something happened. I'm not exactly sure what. I think the butterfly flew down by her feet and she sort of stepped on it or kicked it or something. But the dead butterfly ended up in her hand.

I took her out of there, and led her (and my screaming infant) down the path a ways to a place where we had some privacy. I put the baby in the stroller and sat down on the ground to have a talk with her. I explained that the butterfly was alive when we walked in but now it was dead because she touched it. The lady told her she wasn't allowed to touch the butterflies and she did anyway, and now the butterfly was dead. She didn't seem too concerned so I asked if she felt sad that she killed the butterfly. She said no. I told her she should feel sad, and that we always need to be gentle with anything that is alive. If we hurt something or someone it should make us feel sad.

I wasn't yelling at her. I was having a frank conversation about what had occurred. I gave her a big hug and kiss, told her I loved her very much, and we went on to have a fun time during the rest of our visit at the zoo. The next week I took her back and we went through the butterfly exhibit without incident.

How else is she going to understand these things? Sometimes emotions and situations that may seem obvious to us are confusing to small kids.

2) A few days before my hysterectomy, I was explaining to Bethany that mommy was going to be in the hospital for a few days. I told her that the place in my tummy where she and her brother had lived was broken and the doctor had to cut my tummy open to take it out. I showed her a couple of pictures online of where the uterus is. I told her that yes, it was going to hurt but mommy would be okay and I'd get better.

This time it was my husband whose jaw was on the floor. He said "Why can't you just tell her you're going to the hospital and that your tummy is going to be sore for a while but you'll be fine?"

I dunno. That's just who I am. When I got home from the hospital she asked if she could see my owie and I yanked my pants down without a second thought. She looked appalled at first but she's seen it several times now and it doesn't phase her anymore.

3) An acquaintance was telling me about how her nine-year-old asked about condoms in the grocery store and she didn't know what to say. I thought about it later and went, wow, by the time my kids are nine I'm pretty sure they are going to know all that stuff. I'm also pretty sure that if my three-year-old asked me about condoms I would say "Those are called condoms." If pressed for more detail I'd say "Grown-ups use them for making babies." I might roll my eyes but I wouldn't break a sweat over it.

Am I doing the right thing? Should I shelter her more? I know I'm not going to change because this stuff just comes out without much thought. I don't consciously register a difference between "What's that?" "A bunny" and "What's that?" "A condom." Somebody else has to bring it to my attention in order for me to second guess it.

I'm down with Santa and all that kind of stuff. I don't want to destroy the magic of childhood. I just don't feel like I'm doing her any favors by letting her think a duck and a jaguar could be pals, or by not emphasizing the gravity of killing a living thing. Yes, we hunt and fish but it is for meat, not for trophies. I believe this is a much more humane way to get meat than to raise animals for food in cramped little stalls, but I guess that's a whole different post.

What's going to give her more nightmares: wondering why that butterfly stopped moving and the zookeepers were glaring at us, or knowing why the butterfly stopped moving and wondering what happens when something dies? Poof! She's caught up with the rest of us.     

July 5, 2011

Casey Anthony - My Two Cents

I did not watch this trial, but I'm not deaf and blind so I have an opinion. Have you ever served on a jury? The trial is a completely different animal behind those doors.
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One time I served on a jury that had to decide which of two unsavory gentlemen was driving while intoxicated when a bad accident occurred. They both claimed the other was driving, of course. Some point or another hinged on the fact that the seat belt on the passenger side was broken.

When the trial ended and deliberations began we had no idea which of the guys was telling the truth. There's so much nonsense and misdirection taking place in a courtroom that sometimes it leaves your head spinning.

Then we began to review the evidence. We watched a tape of the vehicle owner speaking to the police on the night of the accident. Our eyes were kind of glazing over when one sharp juror said "Wait! What did he just say? Rewind that please."

We turned up the volume and tuned our ears back in to hear the guy complaining about his shoulder pain from "that damn seat belt."

This was never presented in court. Not even the attorneys knew how we came to our verdict. But it was clear proof, in our minds, that this man was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident.

Sentencing someone to prison or death is nothing to be taken lightly. It's a sobering responsibility that citizens of this country have to bear.

Stop and think for a moment, please. Casey Anthony is not a wealthy celebrity like O.J. Simpson. She is a previously unknown young woman who will now be spending the rest of her life as one of the most hated persons in the country. What kind of life will that be?

And what if she really isn't guilty? What if she really is just a confused, mentally ill person who can't manage to distinguish truth from reality? Either way she will never have the opportunity to feel happy or safe again.

Caylee Anthony died days before my daughter was born. I couldn't watch this trial because it hits way too close to home. I want her killer's head on a stake as much as everyone else, believe me.

But I also want to believe our justice system works, so I'm willing to accept that Casey Anthony didn't kill her daughter. Now let's find the son of a bitch who did.     -Kim

July 1, 2011

Self Esteem or Why Do We Hate Ourselves So Much?

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Order Miche Bag Online!The most eloquent 752 words ever written were in a column for the Chicago Tribune by Mary Schmich in 1997 (later turned into a song by Baz Luhrman). The column was called Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young, and contained greater wealth than money will ever bring. I couldn't pick a favorite quote from it if you held a gun to my head, but today's post is about this:

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

The song came out as a single in 1999. I was 24 years old, and trust me, Mary, it wasn't wasted on me. Well. Except for the part you considered to be the most important: wear sunscreen. If I had heeded that little nugget 12 years ago maybe I wouldn't have a giant scar on my face today. But I digress.

So many people struggle with their self esteem. I recently found out that a 20-year-old woman I care about is harming herself in addition to staying with a ridiculous boyfriend because she thinks she can't do any better. One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Read that again. Now think of four women you know. Which one is living in terror of people finding out about her "shameful" secret? Or just plain living in terror of her spouse?


Why do we hate ourselves so much?

At some point we have to take responsibility for our own lives. At some point we have to choose happiness.

We live in what I like to call an American Idol society. You can call it a What Not to Wear society. Or a People of Walmart society. But suddenly it's cool to be mean. It's not okay to be yourself unless you are perfect. Don't dance unless you're choreographed. Don't sing unless you've rehearsed. Don't wear a bathing suit unless you are perfectly spray tanned. And, for god's sake, don't leave the house in sweat pants.

Like it wasn't hard enough competing with actresses and supermodels, now we have to question everything we say, do, or wear in public for fear of winding up on YouTube.

At some point we have to reclaim ourselves, or we are going to drown in our neuroses.

Women, especially, tend to think they need to try harder, look better, BE better somehow. No wonder there is so much domestic violence! We don't think we're good enough to walk out our own front doors, of course we're not good enough for our spouses.

I'm not saying we should lower the bar. Work out! Lose weight! Wear all the latest fashions and eat only 100% vegan food. Strive for perfection in every aspect of your life. That's so not the point. Here's the point:

Love yourself.

Today. Just as you are.

Love your saggy boobs. Love that mole on your neck that has a hair growing out of it. Love your big ears, love your bad haircut, love your stinky feet, and love your sparse eyelashes. Love the stupid things that always seem to come out of your mouth.

Love your life.

Today. Just as it is.

Love your messy house. Love being suddenly single after your husband of 14 years left you last week. Love your foreclosure.

Every second of your life is amazing. Every breath you take is a miracle. Don't waste any of it on regret or insecurity. Don't waste any of it on what might have been. Cherish what is. Live in a way that makes you happy, and be satisfied with the choices you've made.

Now here's a picture of my sexy ass in a bathing suit:

My three favorite people.
Tonight I'm going to karaoke. Badly. And if I end up on YouTube I'll just have to ask Tosh.0 for a web redemption.     -Kim

If you are a victim of domestic violence please call 1-800-799-SAFE or visit http://www.thehotline.org/.