February 21, 2010

in no manual for parenting


Reading the comments people left for my last post, praising me for recognizing and questioning the rigid gender rules, in addition to feeling thankful, I am actually embarrassed. Feeling a bit like a fraud. A hypocrite.

In an ironic way, although I set out to remain anonymous so I can speak my mind on my blog, perhaps I have been putting my best face forward when I am spouting parental wisdoms: For the hours I am composing my posts, I am wise and patient; The rest of the time, I feel my way around in the dark, making horrible mistakes.

Such is the peril (merit) of knowing someone online: s/he is made up of the words they (choose to) publish.

I do struggle with how much I need to compromise on a daily basis because my kids are school-aged and they deal with realities in the school hallways, in the classrooms, on the playground. They are their own people and I no longer live their lives for them.  I feel that it is unfair, selfish even on my part, to allow (encourage?) my children to become social pariahs because of my own philosophical convictions. Because I have a point to make.

I am torn every day between wanting to challenge what pass as gender “norms” and needing to protect them. As some of us have learned the hard way, some mishaps stay with you for the rest of your school career, if not your life.

“Make sure you do not have BO. You don’t want to go down the history as ‘THAT kid with BO’. Once a rumor starts with you having BO, it does not matter whether you have BO, or whether it was just once after the gym class, because you know, you are going to be, yup, you guessed it, ‘THAT kid with BO’!” I warned my oldest, despite much eye-rolling on his part.


The morning after I published the post, feeling pleased with myself. Smug even, I’ll admit.

Fuck you, world! I had declared.

Mom. 1. World. 0.

At breakfast my oldest was leafing through Mr. Monk’s notebook.

“Don’t touch my diary!” Mr. Monk reached over to secure it. (Before you are impressed that he keeps a diary, well, so far, he has only filled out ONE page. And that was a long time ago…)

“But I want to see it!” His brother grabbed a hold of it.

“NO! It’s mine! Don’t look at it!”

“Why can’t I look at it? You are saying I can’t look at it only because I want to look at it now. If I say I don’t want to look at it, you are not going to care!” My oldest, the future lawyer. I believe we have established that before.

“Just don’t touch it. It’s my diary!”

After a few more minutes of heated exchanges, I had chosen to stay out of these occurrences that happen all the friggin’ time throughout the day, my oldest delivered the throwaway punch:

“Fine! Anyway, diaries are for girls!!”

My eyes widened. I could see the steam coming out of my nostrils the mad bull into which those words had transformed me.

“What did you just say?” Disbelief. The first time I heard something like this in my household. An utterance that dared to arbitrarily dictate what a boy is not supposed to do from the mouth of my own child directed at his own brother. Ironic, isn’t it?

“Diaries are for GIRLS! He’s like a girl! Only girls keep a diary!” Words tumbled out with the intention to hurt.

By now no longer a mad bull, I was Fury Herself. “Please shut your mouth right now!” I did not mince words. Did I ever mention that I have a fiery temper?

I went on to drop my oldest off at his band practice (Our lives are full of ironies…)

“Why did you say ‘Diaries are for girls’ to your brother?”

“Because it is true. THEY ARE! And that was 10 minutes ago! Why are you still talking about it?!”

“BECAUSE I don’t want my children to grow up believing in gender stereotypes!” I know I sound ridiculous. But I do talk to my oldest in such a fashion.

“How can that be a stereotype if it is true?!”

“Why is it true? Why do you think it is true? Who gave you the right to say what is for a girl and what is for a boy? Who gave you the right to be spouting such nonsense in my house? How would you like it if someone makes fun of you because of your long hair? That you look like a girl?” I am not proud of myself but I do get carried away when debating against my oldest. Because he’s always so sure of himself, so quick to argue, I often forget that he’s only 11 3/4.


“How did you feel when some girls laughed at your because you are in gymnastics?”

Pause. True to his heritage as a “Last Word-er” though, he soon retorted, “It’s different!”

“Why is it different? No. I want to know why you think it is different.”

“Just because!” He’s crying now. “Fine! Diaries are for boys too, ok? And what does it matter? He‘s going to be made fun of anyway because he speaks with a British accent!”

Mom. 0. World. 1.

On some days, I just want to surrender, and curl up inside a cozy black cave. Wake me up when they turn 25 please.


After watching me going through my nightly ritual of makeup removal, Mr. Monk asked, “Why do women wear makeup?”

“Because we want to look pretty.”

“So why can’t boys wear makeup?”

I couldn’t think of any legitimate reason other than, “Well, they just don’t.”

Mr. Monk walked away with my powder brush, unsatisfied with my copped-out answer.

Later my husband came in the bedroom, I repeated the question for his benefit, “Yeah… WHY can’t boys wear makeup?”

“Because their fathers will kill them. That’s why.” He summed it up succinctly.

At this moment, Mr. Monk came back to the room and asked his father, “Why can’t I wear makeup?”

“Because I will kill you. Ask Grandpa what he would do if I wore make up. He would kill me too.”

“But Michael Jackson does!” Mr. Monk protested; I looked away, trying hard not to laugh out loud.

My husband retorted, in a tone that signaled end of discussion, “Michael Jackson is dead!”

Thank goodness for dads. That’s what came to my mind as I sneaked away from this land mine of a conversation.


Andrea February 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm

The wonderful dichotomy that is parenting! Haha, damn though, I find I can learn from your rantings about society and your reality — both are filled with genuine love for your family. :)

Our children have also learned all kinds of wonderfulness from the late Michael Jackson too, no? 😉
.-= Andrea´s last blog…"Seven Nation Army" =-.

Mrsblogalot February 21, 2010 at 6:05 pm

LOL!!! Do you think MJ croaked just so that point could be driven home? I’d like to think so.

Your household sounds beautifully normal, fun and smart (and don’t kid yourself, with you holding the reins, they can’t go wrong). and black caves are overrated-er…unless you’re having sex!! (-;
.-= Mrsblogalot´s last blog…Cafe Bite-Me =-.

Kristen @ Motherese February 21, 2010 at 7:34 pm

I love what you have to say here about balancing our own convictions with our desire to both allow our kids to be their own people and to protect them from becoming social pariahs. Something tells me that, with you as a mom, your boys will have a pretty healthy respect for women and their status (diary comments notwithstanding).

secret agent woman February 21, 2010 at 9:12 pm

I remember one of my brothers crying when he realized that girls could wear pants or skirts but boys could only wear pants. he thought that was unfair. But the truth is, fair has nothing to do with it. There are conventions you go along with because it will cause you too much trouble if you buck them. And then there are things you stand up for because they are important. Not sure make-up is worth it, although some goth boys wear eyeliner and nail polish.

Also, I suspect that most decent parents feel like frauds and some really lousy ones think they have it all under control.
.-= secret agent woman´s last blog…And a little indoor looking-forward-to-summer project. =-.

Unknown Mami February 21, 2010 at 10:34 pm

It’s hard being you.
.-= Unknown Mami´s last blog…Sundays In My City =-.

naptimewriting February 21, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Find some books that were diaries, or books that include grown men writing in diaries (Brave New World does, right?) and show those to the boys. There have to be famous, hugely successful books written by men and based on diaries. Is Proust’s masterwork mostly a diary? Metamorphosis reads like a diary. I wish I could answer this for you, but I’m one of the worst English professors ever on remembering historical details…
.-= naptimewriting´s last blog…what about your weekend, punk? =-.

tattytiara February 22, 2010 at 12:10 am

Complicated societies create complicated children, and complicated children are the absolute hardest kind of children there are to raise.

They’re also the most rewarding, though. Yours are very blessed to have a parent that makes them think about the things they say. Mom: 1 Kids: 1 World:1 on that score.
.-= tattytiara´s last blog…With the budget I had it’s a miracle this title even got made. =-.

Wicked Shawn February 22, 2010 at 5:59 am

“No parent who is doing the “right” thing ever makes it through a whole day feeling like they have done it the right way.” My Beloved Great Grandmother

Your conversation with your oldest son reminds me very much of my conversations with my kids, as they are older now, I tend to just talk to them like I would an adult. Only I have final authority. I allow them to express their opinions, but they know that being heard is just that, I will hear their arguments, but in the end, unless they have brought a very compelling fact that I was completely unaware of into light, I trump them. Sometimes I wonder if this style of parenting only frustrates my children more than the whole, “No, because I said no, now move on” method, but, it is what I have always done, so I guess I will continue on.

You love your children, you do your best. That’s all any of us can really do, I think. I hope.
.-= Wicked Shawn´s last blog…Love Letters of Camelot…….. =-.

TheKitchenWitch February 22, 2010 at 8:42 am

Shit. I could not stop laughing reading this, but I feel your pain. Just when we think we’re doing a good job, a fly gets in the ointment. Argh!

And your husband’s answer to why boys can’t wear makeup? Priceless.
.-= TheKitchenWitch´s last blog…White Bean Dip with Roasted Garlic and Rosemary =-.

Jane February 22, 2010 at 11:39 am

THIS is why I love you! You are real! Say it with me….REAL! We all have parenting moments like these. And it takes a truly wonderful, amazing, fabulous mom like you to put it out there – for all of us to see – with both warts and wisdom – to make the rest of us feel normal. You rock!
.-= Jane´s last blog…Just A Little Something I Need To Get Off My Chest =-.

Jennifer Lynn February 22, 2010 at 12:31 pm

“Because I would kill you!” :) Bruhahahahah. Awesomeness.
.-= Jennifer Lynn´s last blog…Inspiration From Mud =-.

Elly Lou February 22, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Holy merde. High fives to the hubby. At the risk of being hokey (but its that kind of day already), I have to say this post makes me hopeful. I like to know smart empowered women are shaping the minds of tomorrow’s men – and that they won’t be total douches.
.-= Elly Lou´s last blog…All About Me =-.

Robin February 22, 2010 at 1:45 pm

She imagining being a mom to a teenager stresses me out.
.-= Robin´s last blog…Beanies and Collars =-.

Chris February 22, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Gosh, I missed all this fun not having any children. I think your kid’s right though–I have NEVER known of a straight man keeping a diary. But the fact that he was sneering when he said it is kind of a downer. Hang in there, kiddo.
.-= Chris´s last blog…Sascha Brastoff =-.

Maureen@IslandRoar February 22, 2010 at 4:46 pm

OMG, I am laughing here. So much punch for one post!
.-= Maureen@IslandRoar´s last blog…525,600 Minutes =-.

Randa February 24, 2010 at 12:12 pm

I didn’t play volleyball after sixth grade because I found out while us girls were all inside hitting a ball with our forearms the boys were outside playing my favorite game…football. And I asked “why can’t I go play football” “because you aren’t a boy” I never again played volleyball.
I hate wearing make up. I have just finally started getting my eye brows waxed. I’m not much of a girl. So it’s probably a good thing I have a boy. A boy that covets my friend’s boots, bracelets, and necklaces, but a boy none the less. (I think because his mom has none of these things…)
.-= Randa´s last blog…Holy Crap! =-.

Absence Alternatives February 24, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Boots, bracelets and necklaces are so much fun, and very pleasing to the eye. It is not fair to disallow our boys to enjoy these beautiful things in life! :-)

Jen @ NathanRising February 26, 2010 at 10:16 am

Your oldest sounds like he is definitely going to be a lawyer when he grows up! And you did a totally awesome job at illustrating how gender stereotypes should be tossed aside.

Mr. Monk is so adorable with his innocent questions! I love reading about them!

.-= Jen @ NathanRising´s last blog…Mommy Brain =-.

Shelli February 27, 2010 at 1:48 am

Randy Pausch kept a diary. Just an FYI. 😉 And I would have reacted much the same way, except for the make-up issue, which I would have said “boys can wear make-up on Halloween and when they’re actors or musicians” … because that seems to be the only time that males can, without society making life hell for them. Unfortunately. Well, that and if they’re emo kids, which I don’t like, nor do I endorse.

I talk to my Son exactly the same way, as if he were an adult. But he knows not to cross me, either! LOL I’d say that we’re well on our way to raising our boys to be the type of men that will have their future spouses thanking us someday. I thank my mother-in-law for most of the values she instilled in my Husband (though not all! some I curse her for!). You’re doing just fine!
.-= Shelli´s last blog…Hibernation =-.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: