“I Wasn’t Raised This way”

   I’m not sure how to handle my husband when it comes to parenting.  We were raised by completely different people so, naturally, we have far different views.  There’s so much we don’t agree on and I don’t ever say anything to him about it.  I have passive-aggressive tendencies in some of the most delicate of places and I feel that is probably the last place you want to let the equilibrium of your internal senses falter.  I should state how I feel and what I believe as a mother every time the need arises yet somehow I’ve become complacent and I nod while grinding my teeth.  Sometimes I think I make the most concessions because I’m simply not willing to argue over things that don’t necessarily need to be dealt with now.

   Kasper makes this excuse that he grew up in a closed off Christian family.  He makes it sound like a cult when it was more like a normal small family that had a bit more faith than others.  Not to mention he wasn’t actually raised “that way” seeing as how his mother didn’t fully absorb the bible into her bosom until he was a teen.  His views that collide with mine are allegedly rooted in this upbringing he didn’t have.  It’s a scapegoat that doesn’t actually exist and yet I let it slide.  Our son will soon be 8 and he’s starting to have questions about things I would have no problem answering if it weren’t for Kasper. He’s already asked the obvious like

Do girls have a penis?

   The thing is, my instincts were to say:

No they have a vagina

But I felt it was too…non-descript, so I told him to ask me again later and by then I’d have an answer.  I just needed time to find a way to answer with comfort and clarity.  I think I found a way but I’ve yet to have the opportunity to sit with him.  The next time he asked, like 6 months later (I guess he wasn’t that curious) Kasper was there and I don’t recall his exact words but he basically told him he wasn’t old enough to understand the answer. He later revealed to me that he didn’t know how to “explain it” and then said he wasn’t sure how much he should know.  My inside face (the one that makes expressions along with my mental voice) had a jaw that dropped to the base of my skull.  I wanted to ask him very loudly,

How much of what exactly?

I told him quietly how I felt, that I already have an answer and I will “explain it” the next time he doesn’t ask right as we’re tucking him into bed. He agreed after a mild argument about how much he should know.  In respect to Kasper’s offenses, I told him I’d lay out the basics and answer the questions as they came.  I want my boys to have clear answers and not ones laden with myths passed down from one generation of uninformed boys to another.  He agreed that would be embarrassing for our boys and they need to be educated rather than making guesses.

   As I went to bed that night with the many other ways I could have handled that entire situation playing out in my head, I was reminded of the time Kasper “requested” (he really was polite about it) that I “bury” my “period stuff” so the boys don’t see it and get scared.  My husband is like a non-feminist dude.  He’s just a dude.  He’s not a misogynist, he’s not a feminist but he’s also not a hater.  He doesn’t have active opinions.  So when he “requests” my tampons and pads be buried, which, folks, I do my best, I have etiquette and I also get grossed out by the sight of old, used tampons and such but I’m not perfect; he’s not asking this of me because

women are gross and give me back my rib you slutty slut whore with your whore mouth

  Unfortunately, he’s asking because he’s totally unaware that menstruation is socially unacceptable and that’s why we go through great lengths as a society to hide the fact that it exists at all. Maybe a part of him (I hope it’s the biggest) thinks he “protecting” our boys from seeing the large amounts of blood that sometimes pour out of mommy but I see it as an opportunity to teach them about the female anatomy, the life cycle and even introducing sex into their understanding of the biological world.  If I ever wrap my used tampon too loosely again, I hope they come to me with questions and concerns.  I told Kasper that my mom told me about periods when I was barely 6 and he said he learned later.  His mom was very hush-hush about things like this.  He has no problem going to the store for me to buy pads and tampons, Midol or all three and some Milky Way bars which was why it came as surprise when he revealed to me that he didn’t know how a tampon worked or why pads needed wings.  It’s confusing that he’s so very casual about so many things, like walking through the store with one mega pack of sanitary napkins in his arm because it was all he was there to get so why bother with a basket? And then I mention period in front of our boys and he gives me the eye DAAARElike:

  I’m 32 years-old and I’m just now embracing feminism.  It bothers Kasper.  He says it’s not that he disagrees because according to him, he doesn’t disagree he’s just not “used to being so open” about things and isn’t sure it’s appropriate for our boys.  He also thinks I get too riled up about some things.  Well, excuse me but just who exactly is to decide if a woman is worthy for an abortion?  It’s just a stupid idea to think someone should make that decision for a woman or decide if it’s truly right or wrong for her.

   I go out of my way to say things like spouse and partner instead of “future girlfriend or wife” to my boys.  I want them to always know there are no guidelines to love as long as there is consent, appreciation of boundaries and acknowledgement of the others feelings towards them.  It has nothing to do with being gay, forcing a gay agenda or anything of that nature.  But Kasper thinks I want my sons to be gay.  Why would I want that? Doesn’t he realize how difficult life is for LGBTQ?  It’s not worth a shopping coach.  I just want them to be happy and for them to always know I will never try to make that decision for them.  I will always accept them and being selective with the language I use while talking with them about their future is respectful to them, not the opposite.  Plus, saying partner really shortens up a sentence. If either of them  is, by chance, gay, they will “just know” they can come to me and because of Kasper’s choice to be vocal about my “easy acceptance” and how he doesn’t understand it, they may not feel comfortable to approach him and he will hurt because of that.  And if they both end up straight they will not feel any dislike towards anyone of the LGBTQ community if I can help it.

   The other day I walked from my bedroom to the kitchen in my jeans and bra.  This is normal in my house early in the mornings.  I have, by societal standards, an awful mom body.  I had two kids, I got really fat with both (more with the first than the last) and then I lost almost all of it.  I’m struggling to hold on to that last ten pounds because I really need it and like it. My boobs aren’t too perky, I have stretch marks from the backs of my knees to just above my nipples with this weirdly smooth spot around the diaphragm area. I have what I call “baby butt belly.”  It’s what happens when you’re thin and you get pregnant and fat and then lose most that weight and you’re left with this pooch from your baby belly that kind of looks like a butt crack. I could tighten up my abs according to all the ads on nearly every site I visit but I do enough exercising for my disability.  In comparison to my disability, my abs are not priority.  I have awful self-esteem and I’m close to zero on the confidence scale.  But I feel so strongly about how my boys view the human body that I feel they are the last people I need to shelter my body from.  If I can accept it (and I have fully on a private scale but I’m working on being more public about it) then hopefully they will learn it’s not worth the judgment towards others.  Hopefully they’ll avoid body issues of their own altogether but if that’s not the case, they may take in my faux confidence I set out just for them and know the judgment from others isn’t worth the stress.  I don’t hide my insecurities from them and make it a point to announce them before saying in a voice they hear:

Oh well.  We’re here for [insert fun or other reason to say “fuck it”] I won’t worry about what others might think about me today.

I sincerely hope they pick up on my cues.  I feel it helps that here Kasper is the most essential as he plays his role well by providing me with compliments and agreeing with my statements about not caring what others think.  He also says things like “Look at me, do you think I care?”  Well, my friends, my husband has changed since my stroke 4 years ago.  He’s become a lot healthier so this may have worked 5 years ago but it only works now when he’s wearing shorts that don’t match his shirt. The point is, he echoes and supports my sentiments.

  The incident that made me really decide that I would no longer wait for Kasper to see how he feels about how I choose to handle questions or certain incidents was the day Skas made a rape joke.  I was insulted; not because I’m a woman, not because I’m a survivor of sexual assault and not  because it’s a bad representation of me but because my son had no idea what he was saying and he thought it was funny.  It was an awful reflection of my parenting yes, but it was also an eye-opening example of what censoring information does to a child. I can’t and won’t agree to raise my child this way.  Sure, it’s partly my fault for letting him watch YouTube on his tablet occasionally and I could sit here all day and tell you that I check his history and make the random pop-over-the-shoulder to sneak a peek at what he’s watching but that’s not the only place he picks up this type of language. My responsibility as a parent isn’t to censor the world around him but to inform him of it.

   My seven year-old son made a rape joke and I almost couldn’t hold my hand back.  That was my honest reaction; to slap him in the face.  I sent him to his room instead and I waited for Kasper to get home.  I told him what Skas had said and invited him to join me while I spoke to him about what he said; tell him directly what rape really means and why, all the reasons why it is so incredibly tragic to hear someone speak so carelessly of rape.  I was blunt and direct and I didn’t let Kasper do anything more than bear witness.  Once all was said and done, I warned Kasper that this is how I will deal with things for now on.  I will not hide the real world from them but instead try to help them understand how invaluable respect for others is.  I cannot teach my boys how to be respectful if I am not educating them on real world topics and issues. If I hide my periods from them what view will they take with those around him there to influence their reception of this information? Menstruation is gross, talking about vaginas to your sons is awkward but it’s far worse having a child who will soon grow into an adult not understanding the full impact of their knowledge of the world and all that’s within it.  The less they know, the more harm they can do with their ignorant words and actions.

Kasper may think he can fall back on the old

 I wasn’t raised this way

bit but I can’t allow him to pass that along to our children.

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