Tag Archives: protecting kids

Blood and gore on a Sunday drive…

My family and I drove out to rural Wisconsin today to check out the Fermentation Festival, specifically to see the art installations on local farmland, otherwise known as the Farm/Art DTour. The tour is an hour driving loop from Reedsburg through LaValle, Ironton, and Lime Ridge and features huge art installations by local artists and residents.

As we were approaching the start of the loop, we passed through Reedsburg, driving down Route 33 (Main St,) and we came upon a dozen or so protesters holding up lettered signs stating their anti-abortion, right-to-life beliefs. Adults, little kids and even littler kids were holding up their signs, stationed there, no doubt, to catch the hundreds of cars that would travel down that road on their way to the 50 mile driving loop of the art festival.

OK, protesters- no biggie for us. I’m not anti-abortion, but I actually thought: kudos to their group-someone must have been thinking ahead in planning to be on such a visible route.

We drove further on and came to the intersection where Main St meets Route K- the beginning of the art loop- and on this corner there were additional pro-life protesters. It took me a minute to register what they were holding, but given that we had to slow down for the turn, my whole family got a clear view of their signs: full-blown photographs of aborted fetuses. Blood, guts, gore all poster-sized and being held up by middle-aged women on the corner of the street, three feet from our van.

“What are those yucky pictures?” my 3-year-old says from the back seat. I tell him to close his eyes and then I try to block his view.

I was appalled, not by the philosophy of these right-to-lifers, but because I spend hours each week wondering and plotting how I’m going to protect my children from images of violence and bloodshed that saturate mass media. And here on the corner were people claiming to be advocates for protecting the lives of children, and they were purposely displaying visually violent images on a route specifically designed for families with children of all ages to pass through.

“You need to put those signs away! There are children in this car!” I yelled to them from our mini-van. And I caught one woman shaking her head saying, “No, No, NO.”

I imagine they were seeking some kind of moral justice by planting those images in the atmosphere for all to see, going for shock and gross-out tactics that might work on adults. Or maybe wanting to get a conversation started or to get people thinking about their beliefs? Whatever their intention, all it did for me was piss me off.

I was incensed. If I had been walking by, I may have destroyed the signs.

Do you have a right to protest?  Yes. Do you have a right to expose my kids to graphic, grotesque images intentionally and without warning when I spend my life protecting them from that? No. I’m sorry, but you don’t.  We haven’t even met, and you’ve disrespected me and my family by taking it upon yourself to throw the images our way without my permission.

In seeking your purpose, trying to shine light on the rights of children to live and be well-cared for, you chose to willfully expose children to disturbing, R-rated photographs. Basically, you destroyed the exact same philosophy you were demonstrating for. You’ve proven yourself unworthy of having a chance to even speak out. And you haven’t shocked me, scared me, or made me think or re-examine my own philosophy. The only thing you’ve done is infuriate me. Because my kids are in the back of the car and my three-year-old is saying he doesn’t want to see those yucky pictures.

So let me help you, at this point, by teaching you what most middle-schoolers know before they reach high school. When you’re trying to make a point, don’t use images that are so horrific that people immediately turn away from you and won’t listen to your message. Don’t argue for life if you don’t care about my kids’ lives. And don’t try to use shocking, scary images on a demographic that is out for a joyful family outing. People like me won’t listen to what you have to say. And you will never win anything except more people who don’t care to listen to what you’re saying.

And, by the way, I’m not mad at people who get or give abortions. They are not throwing scary images in my kids’ faces.

Kids are people

One of the things that I took with me from childhood (and that landed me in therapy) was feeling invisible. I distinctly remember feeling like I had Important things to offer–and I did not measure them against the fact that I was a kid. To me, they weren’t a kid’s thoughts. They were just Important thoughts. So why were the adults around me treating me like a kid, when what I felt like was a human being with important things to say and observations to share?

What got me thinking about this today was the fact that I caught myself in a moment of gross adulthood. That is, behaving in a way that, as a kid, I swore I never would.

My kids and I were meeting my husband outside my doctor’s office so he could drive them (in the van) home while I had my appointment.  And I would then take his truck home. So the kids were in the van, and Justin and I were standing outside the van, talking about schedules and the agenda for the evening.  Then Justin got in to take the kids home. I said goodbye to him and walked away from the van.

As he was driving away, I realized I had not said goodbye to my kids. This might not seem like a big deal. Kids are often in their own world. And a three year old and an eleven month old might not notice their mom not saying goodbye. But honestly, I know kids do remember things just like that.  Because I remember being a kid and wondering why adults acted like I wasn’t in the van, or in the room or wherever I found myself being passively ignored.

I felt bad. I’m usually pretty good at including them as small people in my world, and offering them the same courtesies as I would an adult.  But I slipped.

OK, that’s part of parenting. But it got me thinking about sharing the test I have that keeps me in check.

Here it is: In any moment involving common courtesy (saying hello, goodbye, please, or thank you; apologizing if I’m wrong or rude), I pretend the kid is an adult. It’s a litmus test to see if I’m treating my kids like people.

In the case today, if I had been saying goodbye to Justin and two of my friends were in the backseat, and I had walked away without saying goodbye to them, it would have been rude. The fact that the two people in the back seat were little people doesn’t make a lick of difference. I should have taken a second to say goodbye. Kids are people too.

Bubble Boys

The other day, my 3 year old was invited to watch a video with some other little ones while the grown-ups talked. My husband and I usually let him watch TV or play ipod learning apps pretty regularly- almost every day- but his exposure to different shows has been pretty limited up to this point. He’s watched things like: Baby Einstein, Sid the Science Kid, Mary Poppins and the most PG-ish of the bunch, Cars.  We don’t watch adult shows when he is around or have the TV on as background noise. We feel like we want to protect him from the media saturation that can happen if we don’t keep a close eye on when screens are on and what he’s viewing.

On this day, he had been watching the selected movie with the other kids for about a half an hour before coming to find me to let me know he didn’t want to watch anymore.

His reason? The movie was “too scary.”

What they were watching?  “Winnie the Pooh.”

This made me so, so happy.  Some parents might worry that this was an indicator that their child is too sensitive.  For me, preserving his sensitivity is a good thing.  I want him to have a lengthy, sparkling childhood where he sees examples of kindness, cooperation, and curiosity in the characters he observes.

Consequently, I can be extremely protective of what he’s exposed to.  This will be the same for my 10 month old, too.  My bubble boys.  Like every parent, I try to protect them from concepts they don’t need to know about.

I used to have a book called The Hidden Messages in Water, that described how the crystallization of frozen water can be affected by the presence of either positive or negative words.  Words like harmony, peace, and love created symmetry, radiance, and beauty.  Words like hate and war had the opposite effect. It’s kind of a cool concept and the pictures of the water crystals from this book really stuck with me.

So when I think about what I want my boys exposed to, it’s the words that created symmetrical, radiant crystals- those that contribute to a harmonious inner life and don’t bring up questions they have no need to answer yet.

Here are some words I don’t want them to even have in their airspace until absolutely necessary.

hate, war, guns, fight, ugly, combat, war, poor, horror, battle, terror, first place, last place, loser, winner, bad, extinction,

Ok, the list goes on and on. As of right now, he lives in a world where people are kind to each other, take care of each other, are gentle, mindful, musical, and fun. I hope that we can keep the media he’s exposed to be reflective of this gentle world for as long as we can.  Hopefully he’ll learn that TV and movies aren’t just about entertainment, but also about learning and really great stories. They’re such a powerful tools…I hope we can teach him how to use them wisely.

 

 

 

I yelled at my kid today.

My 3 year old is brilliant, stubborn, strong-willed, highly active, and fiercely independent.  Every day when his “listening ears” aren’t on, he does something unsafe, or he blatantly disobeys me, I work hard internally to censor myself and calm my voice before it leaves my body.  I am usually quite good at monitoring what I say so that I appear levelheaded and peaceful.  I want a peaceful house.  But inside, after a long day of self-censorship, I am worn down.  Sometimes I wonder about the discrepancy between the impulsive frustration I feel and the calm but firm words that come out of my mouth.  Am I growing an ulcer or something with all the frustration that goes unexpressed?  The things I say out loud vs the things I say in my mind often go something like this:

Out loud: Would you like to put your shoes on or would you like me to do it?  Would you like to put your shoes on or would you like me to do it?  Would you like to put your shoes on or would you like me to do it?
In my mind: Get over here and sit the fuck down and put on your fucking shoes!!

Out loud: If you throw the toy, then the toy goes away. If you throw the toy, then the toy goes away.
In my mind: I am so sick of telling you not to throw your fucking toys!

Out loud: Eat your food, sweetie. Eat your food, sweetie. Eat your food, sweetie. Eat your food, sweetie.
In my mind: What the hell?!! Sit still and EAT!! Eat your fucking food!

Throughout the day, I make it a point to not raise my voice to him because it doesn’t do anything except frustrate me and make me feel guilty.  His behavior usually doesn’t change whether I raise my voice or not if he’s doing something naughty.  And, though it doesn’t make him cry or seem sad, I think it makes him a little more…sensitive.  And curious. He’s way tougher than I am.  If someone were yelling at me and ordering me around, I would be furious and definitely crying. When he’s having a day when his “listening ears” aren’t on, he seems unaffected by my frustration.

Today was the first day in 3 years that I lost my self control and not only raised my voice, but was really commanding him around.  He had been pushing me all day.  It’s starting to wear on me- this not wanting to do anything I suggest and not wanting to follow directions.

Me (holding 2 crayons): “Would you like the red crayon or the green?”
Him: “Black.”

Me: “I want you to pick up your toy before we leave.”
Him: “No, I don’t want to.”

Me; “Can you please help me out by handing me that napkin right next to you?”
Him: Silence.
Me: “Can you hand me that napkin, please?”
Him: Silence.
Me: “BRADEN! Can you hand me that napkin?”
Him: “No.”

It doesn’t sound so bad, except it is- when everything becomes an argument, a power struggle, or so repetitive that I want to bite something.

So today I had low patience going into the day and it wore off as the day went on.  By late afternoon I was mentally exhausted. I let him splash around in some puddles outside in the rain, even though it was 50 degrees- I was desperate.  I showed him the boundaries I wanted him to stay in so that he wasn’t running into the main area of the street.  When, after 5 minutes of splashing, he ran beyond the boundaries, I freaked.  (As I usually do when his safety is a concern.)

These were the words I said:

“Get over here NOW!”

“What are you DOING? I said get in the HOUSE!”

“I will count to 3 and if you are not in the house by 3…”  (then, what exactly?  I never actually finished this sentence)

Once I started using this awful commanding voice, I couldn’t seem to stop because it didn’t actually get him to do what I was asking him to do and it didn’t get him moving any faster.  I kept thinking, “surely he will respond to this much anger in my voice” and I got more and more serious and loud.  But it didn’t make him obey me.  He still dawdled. He still tested and pushed me.  When I put him in a time out he just got up and walked toward me. (Short of restraining him in a car seat, I’m out of ideas for time outs.) I felt horrible and weak.  Like not only could I not control my kid’s behavior, but I was too weak to control my own behavior.

We talked about it afterward and I apologized for raising my voice and being so stressed out.  We hugged.  I told him I loved him even when his listening ears aren’t on. And that I love him even when I am really stressed out.  He then continued to misbehave for the rest of the day.

Now, of course, I fell guilty.  I hope what he takes away from the day and remembers in his little spirit is that his mom fessed up when she acted less than stellar.  That people are human and they aren’t perfect.  And that when we don’t treat our loved ones in a way we feel really good about, it’s important to say sorry and forgive ourselves and each other.