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A sweet letter of encouragement to moms who just found out their child has Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome: A letter to a mama who just found out…

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October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. I hardly knew a thing about Down Syndrome before my daughter came along. I’m sure many people who receive this diagnosis for their child don’t know much about it either.

A sweet letter of encouragement to moms who just found out their child has Down Syndrome

When we received the news 22 weeks into my pregnancy, just days after Christmas, that our daughter had Down Syndrome, I thought my world was imploding. I had no idea what to expect, or what was in store for us.

I was almost 40 and we wanted a baby so very, very much.  There was no way we were going to do anything other than keep her – we decided that the day we found out I was pregnant. This baby was who we were supposed to have, and that’s just how it was meant to be.

But… I. Was. Terrified.

So this is what I would like to say to any woman who has just been told her precious child has Down Syndrome…


Dearest mama, with that sweet baby in your belly…

I can’t pretend I know exactly how you feel.  But I understand a lot of it.

Yesterday you found out that your baby has Down Syndrome.

I know this morning is so hard for you.  It may even be harder than yesterday.

I remember clearly the first morning after we found out.

I woke up after finally falling asleep for a few hours and had about 2 seconds of consciousness before the news I had received the day before hit me all over again, almost like for the first time.

I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. 

Like the walls were closing in.

Like someone was squeezing my heart in a vice.

And I’m not going to sugarcoat it: I had the same feeling for many mornings after.

But I want to share this with you, for what it is worth:

Each day it hurt a little bit less.

Yes, there were spikes of pain when some incident triggered it. Lots of them.

But overall, it got less and less and less.

On the day of our diagnosis, I said to my husband “What are we going to do?!”

He simply said,

“We are going to LOVE her.

Above all else, she is a BABY. She will eat, sleep, poop, pee, smile, giggle, laugh, and cry – hopefully not too much!

And we will deal with whatever else comes along, as it comes along.

But let’s not guess, or imagine bad things for her. Let’s wait and see.”

And that’s what we did.

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And as the days then weeks then months passed I found that,

almost proportionally,

my pain, which had been overwhelming and consuming and I thought would never ever go away decreased,

while my love and hopes and excitement to meet my Vallyn increased until I simply felt like I could not wait another single moment to hold her in my arms!!!

After Vallyn was born, they laid her on my chest and my first thought was “yes, she does have Down Syndrome – I can see it a little bit”.

But almost before that thought processed in my head another voice inside shouted

YES!  This is MY DAUGHTER and I finally get to see her and hold her and tell her how I love her so much! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” 

And she turned her head and looked straight into my eyes and I couldn’t believe the wave of love and peace that washed over me.

And now I find that every single morning since she was born, without fail,

no matter how tired I am,

instead of feeling that awful pain of those first few months after diagnosis,

I look down into that crib and I see her looking up at me, smiling, and

it feels like the best Christmas morning ever.

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And I can’t believe that on the day the doctor told me my daughter has Down Syndrome, I thought my life was over and would never be good again.

I was so, so very wrong.

Now, sweet mama, I’m not saying everything will be perfect. (Remember, no sugar coating.)

It won’t be – not with ANY kid – Down Syndrome or no Down Syndrome.

I’m saying honestly to you that there will be times that are scary and hard and frustrating.

Baby Girl Vallyn (3)

But there will also be times when you feel you can take on the world.

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There will be tears of both joy and sorrow.

There will be ups and downs.

There will be so much laughter, and SO MUCH LOVE.

Please don’t feel like you have to give up having dreams for your child.

Because you don’tyou may just have to change them a little.

And they may or may not come true.  So what?!  Make some new ones.

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I never could have dreamed that Vallyn would be as truly amazing as she is.

But she conquered a heart surgery at five weeks old.

 

A sweet letter of encouragement to moms who just found out their child has Down Syndrome

And it took a while, but she’s walking, practically running now.

She has hiked on her own two feet almost a mile around a lake at 9,400 feet.

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She has been in four Scottish Highland Festival parades and brought joy and smiles to those along the way, waving and blowing kisses and causing people to run into the street with their cameras to get her picture as she rides by.

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She got through having the flu, RSV, and pneumonia all at once, and with a smile on her face!

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She has ridden ponies.

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She has been a flowergirl in a wedding.

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She has been to the Grand Canyon.

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She has splashed with unadulterated joy in alpine lakes.

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She has spread her infectious smile to so many people; at the grocery store, doctors offices, and pretty much everywhere we go.

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She goes to preschool, plays with her cousins and friends, has been to both coasts, had multiple photos in a book on physical therapy for children with Down Syndrome, has met Miss Colorado (twice!), met government figures and important researchers, and had the most liked photo ever on the Rocky Mountain National Park Facebook page.

She has fought so hard her entire life – to be strong, to learn, to overcome. Her strength and determination and stubbornness blow me away on a daily basis.

SHE IS MY HERO. 

And she is a wonderful, caring, fun, silly, LOVING big sister.

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And she’s not even three and a half!

I had no idea that day so long ago that she would do all these things.

And I can’t WAIT to see what else she can do!!!

So…dear mama, I don’t know your exact circumstances, thoughts, beliefs, or feelings.

Or exactly what challenges you and your sweet baby will face.

Or what your baby may or may not eventually be able to do.

What I do know is that this is scary and it hurts and it is not what you expected.

And you are allowed to feel all the emotions you are feeling – please don’t believe otherwise and don’t stuff those feelings in.

Get them out of you, as much as you can, so that when that baby gets here, all that’s left is

LOVE and HOPE.

I can tell you that ‘it gets easier’ and you may feel like punching me – I might if I were you.

But please, please don’t give up on this baby. Or yourself. Ever.

I beg you – don’t place limitations on this child you haven’t gotten to meet yet.

Instead, choose to picture this child doing wonderful and amazing things.

Being healthy. Brave. And fighting hard.

And being so full of life, and joy, and LOVE that you will be utterly floored.

Please celebrate the little victories as well as the big ones.

(Often those that seem ‘little’ to others are GIGANTIC to us.)

Know that while your family may not fit into the “typical” or “normal”, what you have will become your normal, and it will just be what it is. (Plus, after Vallyn’s diagnosis a friend said to me “Well, normal is boring anyway!”)

When you feel ready, please reach out to other mamas who are going through what you are.

(I cannot emphasize this enough!)

They will be a source of strength, knowledge, laughter, tears and support.

Please also contact your local Down Syndrome organization. They can help connect you with resources and with other families. (That’s how I found my other mamas!)

I have not forgotten all the times along this path that have been so hard.  And I’m sure there will be more hard times for us in the future.

But I do know where I am now and I am so thankful.

Brave mama, you are so strong.

You can do this.

It may not feel like that now and you may feel beat up, but I know you will survive.

And please know that you are being trusted with, and gifted with, a very special child.

So give that little baby in your tummy a love pat, think good thoughts, and don’t stop dreaming!

Because dreams can come true. Even dreams we didn’t know we had.

With much love and MANY CONGRATULATIONS on your baby,

A mama with a beautiful girl that has Down Syndrome, and who I wouldn’t trade for the world

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Resources on Down Syndrome:

Down Syndrome Pregnancy

Support for Parents Preparing for the Birth of  Child with Down Syndrome

National Down Syndrome Society

National Down Syndrome Congress

Global Down Syndrome Foundation

Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association

You can find more of Cassie’s writing at Expectant…

Practical advice for helping friends when their child is critically ill.

Parent to Parent: Helping Families with a Critically Ill Child

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As we wave goodbye to September, we also wave goodbye to the “go gold” ribbon month of Childhood Cancer Awareness. Did you know that in the month of September alone, approximately 14,600 children worldwide were diagnosed with cancer? (St. Baldrick’s Foundation) That’s about 486 kids per day… and 486 families whose lives will never be the same. I know that ours hasn’t.

Serious childhood diseases are devastating, and they do not discriminate. We know that children get sick every day of every month from cancer and many other debilitating diseases. The family of a critically ill child may pull back, isolating themselves physically and socially, but there are ways that family and friends can show support. What if that child is your own? How can you ask for help?

Practical advice for helping friends when their child is critically ill.

As a parent of a childhood cancer survivor, what I’d like to say is that friends and family will be supportive and understanding. That might be the case, but not always. No one can truly understand what it’s like to be in the whirlwind of a childhood disease. It’s living, intensified, and not everyone understands or sometimes cares to. Here are a few hard-earned, parent-to-parent tips:

Not everyone will understand, nor should you expect them to. Your friends will continue to have lives that revolve around politics, work squabbles, half-yearly sales, and soccer tournaments. Your friends might post trivial things to Facebook or Instagram at the exact moment you feel your life is caving in. No one can truly understand the journey unless he or she has set foot on the path, so be gentle with people. I wouldn’t wish parenting a child with a serious illness on my worst enemy.

Set limits. Think hard about the people you let into the sacred space of your life. Limit time with friends who attract drama or crisis of their own. The same goes for those who swim in an ocean of negativity. This is a hard thing to do. I know because I’ve been there. In survival and recovery modes, try to surround yourself and your family with kind, compassionate, unassuming people. That’s a tall order, but one you will appreciate later. Be attentive to your child’s needs. Even a room full of kind, compassionate, unassuming helpers can be too much at times. Be a champion for your child. Sometimes that means limiting visitors. Ask your child if he or she wants visitors before inviting. Likewise, parents can become overwhelmed. Take a social break if you need it. Or take a mental break. Ask your loved ones to call before visiting to see if it’s a good time or not. People shouldn’t just drop by unannounced. If they do, have a loving conversation: “You know we love to see you, Aunt Phyllis. We want to make sure your visits are special. Please give a call next time so that we can pick a time that’s best for you and for Timmy.” Make sure to let friends and family know that sometimes it’s a day-to-day thing. Kids can unexpectedly spike a fever or suddenly feel ill. Ask loved ones for their patience. Put scheduled visits on a master calendar.

If you need it, ask for help. Generally speaking, people want to help and aren’t sure how. Speak up if someone asks what they can do for you and you can think of something specific. It might be picking up a sibling from school or bringing a hot meal or coming by the hospital to watch your child so you can take a shower. You might consider asking someone to help you build a CaringBridge site or a Facebook page. Post any needs or “wish list” items. Here are some ideas:

  • Gift cards: Starbucks, Subway, Amazon, gas, supermarket
  • Gift card to a nearby restaurant that delivers
  • Hot meals
  • Babysitting for siblings (for a parent date night or a “short break” respite)
  • Small household tasks: a load of laundry, dishes, shopping, taking out the trash
  • Help with the yard: mowing, edging, weeding, watering
  • Caring for pets: walking the family dog, feeding and watering
  • Movies: funny or upbeat titles
  • Books (for the child and parent): age appropriate and interest-based
  • Puzzles, games, coloring books and crayons

Drop expectations, appreciate what comes. Like many things, this might be easier said than done. However, letting go of expectations will save you grief in the end. We get into trouble when we expect people to act a certain way or to do a certain something. It’s a better plan to expect the unexpected and appreciate what does come your way. You have little control over what others do or do not do. We can’t control others, but we can control our response to what happens (or what doesn’t). Take on an attitude of gratitude and assume the best of people. Assume that people are doing the best they can with what they have. Assume that people would come to visit if they could.

Know early that you may lose friends. To be blunt: some folks don’t know how to handle sickness or grief, so they disappear. It happens. These friends and family members may come back when things settle down, and when that happens, you can decide if their love and/or friendship is still of value to you.

You will also gain new friends, if you are open to the experience. If you are having trouble connecting, look into a parents’ group that either meets in-person or online. One of my greatest joys was becoming a part of online support communities. You might also meet parents from your child’s doctor or specialist, at the hospital, or from living in a facility like the Ronald McDonald House. Exchange information, get the digits of your new pals, reach out to them, and keep it positive. Parents and their children can support one another!

Be respectful. In a perfect world we wouldn’t need a reminder, but parenting a child with a serious illness is far from a perfect world. Do your best to extend basic courtesy to others. If you must, walk away. Count to ten or twenty or one hundred and twenty. I found it helpful to keep a gratitude journal, a small thing I could keep in my purse to jot down notes about things that made me or my child happy. Looking back, we gave thanks for some funny things. I still smile today thinking about quality toilet paper and the first flowers of spring. Extend your gratitude outward and others will feel it.


Parenting a sick ill child is challenging. We can feel isolated and alone at the very time we need kindness and connection. Whether you are the parent of a sick child or want to support a family in need, the very best thing you can do is to keep an open heart. Ask for help if you need it and offer help to others if you are able. ♥

Such beautiful lessons about grace and peace in the midst of childhood cancer.

Childhood Cancer: Lessons from Our First Year

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Such beautiful lessons about grace and peace in the midst of childhood cancer.Berkleigh was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma on September 15, 2014. It’s been one long year. In that time, we have done six rounds of chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, 5 or 6 surgeries, countless biopsies, scans and radiation.

We finished our last antibody treatment on Friday. We even had a party.

Having just walked through the Red Sea, I am overcome with emotions.

And all these thoughts are jumbled up and drenched in prayer, tears and stale coffee. Forgive me, if I ramble.

I used to read about the exodus from Egypt…and think “those Israelites! They saw God’s miracles. They walked on dry land through giant walls of water…get to the other side and doubt God? Seriously?”

I am eating those words…because this morning at 4 am, Berkleigh spiked a fever and we are right back where we started in the ER. Admitted. Again.

James 1: 2 - 6While I know that God is healing my daughter, I have caught myself more times than I care to admit within the last month doubting our financial recovery, complaining about this time in the desert and the manna that He is providing.

I am an Isaelite! Good grief!

I wonder how long I will be waiting for the other shoe to drop. I wonder how long “my leg hurts” or a high fever will punch me in the stomach and take my breath away.

So when I feel like I can’t possibly take anymore, I remember the key to JOY:

I look to Jesus…J

I look to Others….O

Then I consider Yours truly…Y

One of the hardest things about cancer is managing this sequence. Keeping Jesus first isn’t hard. We have nothing but time to pray and so much to say.

Serving others becomes the biggest challenge. Loving, wonderful people have a tendency to put “cancer moms” first. It is a huge blessing. But it always keeps us in the position of being served. And sometimes holds us hostage to the emotions that come with being a cancer mom.

Honestly, we are unreliable. We have a ton on our plate. But, allowing us to hold your baby at a birthday party, or do the dishes, helps us to have a glimpse of just being another mom. Being ourselves.

And any distraction from dwelling in this moment and focusing on ourselves brings us closer to joy.

When your child has cancer, it is easy to get caught up in “to do” lists, trying to keep things normal for brothers and sisters, and just finishing the treatments at hand. It is easy to worry. It is easy to give into fear.
I am so blessed to have the Word to redirect me. I am humbly admitting it to you. I know with all my being that the God, who has healed my baby, CARES about all the schedule adjustments, the mini medical issues, financial concerns, relationships, siblings and anything else that would creep in and steal my peace.

Berkleigh's JourneyI am committing to rest and enjoy this season of manna in the desert – because there are miracles here too. And being with God in the desert is amazing in comparison to life in a “perfect world” without Him.

I want to be in the presence of the living God, content and humble.

Kneeling next to her bed this morning, I am choosing thankfulness – God, you are so good!

I am choosing faith…just living it.

I am choosing peace…resting in the arms of a loving God who has shown me faithfulness in abundance.

Kyler, my 14 year old, once explained to Taryn, who is six, that God is a healer. And he WOULD heal Berkleigh. He could do that through the doctors, through a miracle, or by taking her to heaven. Our job was to be courageous and be “ok” with however God chose to do that.

I can’t put my own limitations on a limitless, all-powerful God. God covers all of this. Completely.


Stacie Slaughter Griggs

Guest post written by:

Stacie Slaughter Griggs

 

 

Ever worry about MRSA? Check out this family's journey with MRSA.

MRSA: It’s Not Just in Hospitals Now

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It started as a bump on my youngest son’s back not far from his belt line. “What’s that?” my husband asked, always the more vigilant of the two of us. I looked at the innocuous looking bump, and replied, “I don’t know, a spider bite maybe. Don’t worry about it. I’m sure it’s nothing.” The next day, the area surrounding the bump began to fill with pus, turned red and felt hot to the touch.

Ever worry about MRSA? Check out this family's journey with MRSA.

 

Luckily, my doctor’s office runs a weekend clinic, so I brought him in for an appointment. I thought it was a bug bite that had gotten infected. The doctor confirmed my suspicions, telling me that it was a run of the mill staph infection. She advised me to place warm compresses on the area three times a day, apply hydrogen peroxide and a prescribed antibiotic ointment. She told me to keep the area covered. Because staph is everywhere, she told me that as long as I kept the area covered, my son would be safe to go back to school and out in public.

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(photos of MRSA on a girl’s leg,the first shows the infection after the first round of antibiotics didn’t work, and the second is when the infection began, courtesy of Wiki commons)

As an aside, I have to admit that staph infections have been a long-term fear of mine. As a family, we have dealt with lice (when the shampoo and combing failed to eradicate the problem, I just shaved my boys’ heads), stomach viruses, the croup, amoebic dysentery, rsv, asthma and allergies. Personally, I have had scabies, ringworm, and an invasion of bird mites in a home that my husband and I rented. Aside from dangerous illnesses like cancer or brain aneurysms, staph infections have always been one of my biggest fears. When I was in high school, I first learned about staph infections from my sister’s friend, who spent almost a year battling one that had set up shop in her armpit. In my 20’s, I ran into a friend at the bookstore, who had acquired staph while surfing. She said that she had tried almost every antibiotic, but she simply could not get rid of the infection. After many months, she had apparently just found the right antibiotic to take care of her problem.

Then, there were the newspaper articles. In 2012, the New York Times published an article about a 12 year old boy, who got a cut on his arm playing basketball, dying a few days later from a staph infection. There were also stories of MRSA circulating around athletic locker rooms, maiming or killing both professional and high school football players. All of the news terrified me.

However, my son’s initial infection responded well to the antibiotic cream and cleared up fairly quickly, easing my fears. Then, it spread to his skinned knee. I was able to see his primary care physician, who confirmed that the staph infection had spread. While she wasn’t able to take a culture, she said that she strongly suspected MRSA because of the speed of transmission. She told me that while the infection sounded scary, that she treated kids frequently with staph infections and that I shouldn’t panic. She prescribed an oral antibiotic in addition to the antibiotic ointment. She said that sometimes people have one incident with staph, and they don’t have another. Other times, it gets spread between family members or reoccurs in the same child. She told me to replace all of our soap with an anti-bacterial soap and to continue the hot compresses three times a day. The nurse told me to stop using the hydrogen peroxide, because she found it damaged healthy skin and did more harm than good.

The staph infection after it had spread to me son's knee.
The staph infection after it had spread to me son’s knee.

I immediately went to the grocery store and bought Clorox wipes, Lysol, antibacterial soap, lots of antibacterial hand wash, Clorox spray, medical gloves, bandages and lots of band aids. At home, I put away our environmentally safe cleaners, our nice smelling olive oil soaps and anything that wouldn’t kill the bacteria. Luckily, my son’s infection responded well to the antibiotics, and his infection is almost gone after only a week. As a family, we have also been taking precautions like putting antibiotic ointment in all of our nostrils twice a day to defeat colonies of staph that may be living in our nostrils. We may never know whether or not my son had MRSA or just a staph infection, but hopefully we will not have any more outbreaks. That said, I will not view any cut, abrasion or bug bite in the same way again.

Helpful Links:

NIH Staph Infections

Web MD Staph Infections

Insufficient Glandular Tissue - When Breastfeeding Doesn't Go As Planned

When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Go As Planned

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This is the first of I don’t know how many posts to tell my breastfeeding story. I don’t know if it’s that long or if it is going to take me that long to get it all out and emotionally relive it all again.

Insufficient Glandular Tissue - When Breastfeeding Doesn't Go As Planned

When my first was born, I had no idea of the learning curve that comes with breastfeeding. Babies can cry a lot when rooting and trying to latch. The latch. The frustrating, seemingly never ending, unbelievably rewarding latch. I thought he would swim to my boob and lay there happily. Um no. He was MOST irritated and he didn’t even have the chapped nipples to prove it. A friend of mine (who is also a doula) said to me “this is normal” after observing me giving two day old babe a breakfast meal. Or at least I thought I was giving two day old babe a breakfast meal. It was more like a 100 calorie snack. As far as everything looked, though, I was right on track to exclusively breastfeeding.

If I had a dozen babies I believe that every single one would be inflicted with jaundice. On day three we had to turn around and rush baby boy back to the NICU after a follow-up blood test proved his levels were elevated. Our new family bubble of bliss had been popped. Nothing and no one would get us back to that warm feeling we had felt just hours before.

Breastfeeding

A huge blessing for us was being allowed to room in for our son’s brief stay. Every 3 hours I was allowed to offer him my breast for 10 minutes followed by a long cycle at the breast pump. I was feeling really terrible with a cough and I hadn’t slept since I first went into labor. I initially attributed my low milk supply to lack of sleep, feeling under the weather, and our new “home.” Anything, but my broken breasts.

Lactation consultants would say to me “sometimes it just doesn’t happen…” with lingering looks toward the door. One “sweet” lady in particular said something that hit a nerve and has stuck with me since my first child, but only clicked with my second. “You don’t have the right breasts for breastfeeding,” she said. Immediately my loyal sister piped up “she has similar breasts as mine and I was able to breastfeed all three of my babies.” Her quip gave me a little bit of hope but I was also internally digesting this statement, comparing her breasts to mine, sixth grade thoughts all over again. Although our breasts are similar, they aren’t identical. And what I’ve learned is; even if our breasts appeared identical that wouldn’t necessarily mean we would both be able to exclusively breastfeed our babies. Some breasts just don’t produce (enough) milk but I didn’t learn this until years later.

After our return from the NICU I was supplementing with formula because otherwise he would have been a very hungry hippo.

(There is photographic evidence of this, that I was THIS CLOSE to posting, of me naked from the waist up, my head wrapped up in a towel with the supplemental feeding system clipped to it and the baby boy trying like heck to get a decent meal. My husband ran interference with this and rightfully so, by asking me if I was OK with the “POSSIBILITY OF BECOMING A MEME?”)

I was told by people and the internet that THIS (formula feeding) was the reason I wasn’t producing more milk, even though I was pumping after every feeding, sometimes for 30 minutes.
To make matters worse, when I was five weeks into life with our first I was diagnosed with pneumonia. The pneumonia would be my latest excuse for my low supply. The toll it took on me was devastating. I ended up spending a number of days in the hospital, all the while continuously pumping on a regular schedule. I was pumping around the clock and for such long times I’m surprised my nipples even survived. Because of very heavy drugs, I had to pump and dump.

Breast Feeding Blues
Photo Credit: www.someecards.com

I was a complete mess. A woman crying while pumping both breasts to the rhythmic beat of the Medela “Pump in Style” has got to be one of the saddest sights ever. My dear husband was there all the while with all the right things to say and even then I COULD NOT GET OVER THE SADNESS. I had a healthy baby boy (that I couldn’t breastfeed.) I had a beautiful baby boy (that I couldn’t breastfeed.) I had to give him formula?

During my pregnancy the idea of feeding my baby formula was so far from my mind. I would have turned up my nose if you told me it would become our lives. He needed that Enfamil to thrive and survive. HE COULDN’T get what he needed from me. This was a big, scratchy, debilitating pill to swallow.

To be continued…

 

Music lyrics have power. How do you talk with your kids about music lyrics?

It’s More Like “Girl Crash!”

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Yesterday my daughters, ages 6 and 11, and I were driving down the road on our way to a doctor’s appointment about 50 miles away. I flipped through radio stations on the way, stopping when something met our fancy. At one point I landed on a station and heard an unfamiliar melody sung by a smooth female voice. I stopped and listened.

Frequently I can listen to an entire song and focus so intently on the music, the voice, or the harmony line that I completely miss the lyrics. For whatever reason, this time I caught the words.

Music lyrics have power. How do you talk with your kids about music lyrics?

The song was Girl Crush, and I suppose I was somewhere in the middle of the second verse when I clued in to the fact that this song was about Girl A who envied Girl B because Girl B was with a boy that Girl A wanted. I think I had just gotten to the following part.

“I want to drown myself

In a bottle of her perfume.

I want her long blonde hair.

I want her magic touch.

Yeah, ‘cause maybe then

You’d want me just as much.”

I’d like to say something really intelligent and insightful came out of my mouth at this point, but that would be a lie. Instead I blurted, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” and clicked to a different station. Then the 11 year old voice in the back seat said, “No kidding! I was thinking the same thing.”

Whoa, I didn’t realize she’d been listening, taking all of that nonsense in. The immediate image that came to mind was of the Sirens. You know, the sultry crooning mythological creatures who lure you with their sweet song until you’re shipwrecked on their island and you meet your ultimate demise. We were lulled by a pretty song and drifted lazily along until we snapped to and saw the sharp rocks ahead.

                        “I got it real bad,

                        Want everything she has…

                        I don’t get no sleep.

                        I don’t get no peace.”

 

No! No! No! Hell to the nah!

I’ve got an eleven year old girl in the backseat. She starts junior high next year. I don’t want her drowning herself in anything, much less some other girl’s identity. My mind started racing, processing all the things that were wrong with this picture.

I want my daughters to be able to admire and respect other people without desiring to become them. It’s a good thing to be able to appreciate another person’s talent or beauty, but recognizing that another person has some positive attributes should happen in conjunction with recognizing your own talent and beauty. “They have it all, and I have nothing” is a messed up equation. It’s not balanced and we aren’t studying that kind of math. The idea of shape shifting into someone else’s image so you can be “good enough” or “acceptable” is not where we want to go.

Not to mention, the attributes that are touted as desirable for adoption in the song all had to do with physical appearance or sexual prowess. And, the tone of the whole darn thing was acquisitional. (i.e. “How can I acquire her long blonde hair, her magic touch, her whisper, so the guy will want to acquire me?”)

Yuck! I don’t want my daughters to view themselves as a commodity to be marketed. Likewise, I don’t want them to buy in to some caricature of masculinity that suggests men only chase blondes with magic fingers and throaty whispers.

I get that the song probably wasn’t written with an 11-year-old audience in mind, but that song wafted through the speakers of my Kia Sorento carried on the waves of a Top-40 station. I guarantee when she walks into junior high in a few weeks, 90% of the 6th grade will have heard it. I wondered just how far the song had burrowed into her brain, so this morning I asked her if she remembered the song we heard on the radio yesterday. Her response: “You mean the one about the girl wanting to drown herself in some other girl’s perfume and steal her blonde hair?”

            Yep, that’s the one.

So, here’s what we’re gonna do. My husband and I can’t shield her from the reality that our society depicts and encourages images of people and relationships that we find to be inaccurate and unhealthy. We can use some of society’s distortion as a starting point for a conversation in which we share our perceptions about healthy women and men. We can ask questions about the underlying assumptions that would inspire a person to create a song like that, and then we can share our foundational beliefs about people’s worth and identity.

My hope is that conversations like this when my daughter is 11 will prevent her from polluting the airwaves with songs like this when she’s a young adult.

Practical tips for talking about gender roles with your kids

Getting Social: A Gender Neutral Dialogue

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In the world we live, there is a constant sliding scale that is our social evolvement. In social evolution, not all of us are at the same place, there are many factors, background, exposure, education just being a few. This is an exciting time to be a parent, as many social issues are coming to the forefront, and that sliding scale is moving forward for many. It is a perfect time to start a dialogue now with your kids about social justice, and discuss issues, like gender, race, equality and consent. Our children are not only advocates for the future, but also advocates for change now. This is the first part in a series of articles about the discussions of social justice with my kids.

Practical tips for talking about gender roles with your kids

MY BEGINNINGS WITH GENDER NEUTRAL PARENTING:

First of all, there are many, many misgivings on gender-neutral parenting: (discussed here.) As a kid, I liked Boy George, and Depeche Mode, and wore earrings, and even once had my naval pierced. It never seemed odd to me, but it did seem odd to others in West Texas.

When I became a parent, the phrase ‘gender-neutral’ was not at all on my radar. As I continue the process of parenting, I have learned a lot. I hope to raise my kids in an environment that encourages freedom for personal growth, period. Wait, that lacks emphasis, I guess I should type it in all caps: FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. PERIOD.

Many things we do, without even thinking about them, encourage gender stereotypes.

Girls: We talk more to them. We compliment them, how they look, how pretty they are. Words we use: cute, pretty, princess, sweetie, cupcake, etc.

Boys: We talk about their future conquests, how they could end up as the next linebacker for The Cowboys, how they are so tough, no one will mess with them.   Words we use: heartbreaker, lady killer, or the less insidious but equally divisive; athletic, strong, wild, brute.

ELSA SPARKS A DIALOGUE 

So, let’s go into when I realized I needed to have this dialogue. Way way back in the Frozen –crazed days of 2014 (shudder: I swore I’d never speak of them), there was an argument in our house:

My daughter tells my son: “You can’t be Elsa, she’s a girl, you can be Sven.”

This was a pretty telling statement, 1. That gender trumped species, (though to be honest, my 3 year and Sven share similar eating – and likely, hygiene habits.) 2. There was an understanding that in play, boys were boys and girls were girls, regardless of species even. That’s when I started to be more aware of the gender-controlled world we live in.

Just after the SCOTUS decision on gay marriage, I talked with my daughter about love and gender.

Me: Adelaide, do you think that men can love men and women can love women, like I love your mom?

A:  Yeah, I know that.

Me: What do you think of that?

A: I like it. Wait, Do you mean like mommies and daddies?

Me: Well yeah. Some families have a mommy and daddy like you, some have 2 daddies, some have 2 mommies. 

A: Aww, how sweet.

Me: Yeah, 2 men and 2 women can love each other, and can have families, just like a man and a woman can. But not everyone likes that. Some people don’t think that people of the same gender
should be married.

A: That’s so mean of them. I think they should be married.

Me: I agree with you, and so does the law now. I think that love is love, and it doesn’t matter what gender you are.

Adelaide smiles in agreement.


But a couple days later, it was a harder discussion about clothes and toys:

Me: Adelaide, do you think there are some clothes just for girls?

A: Ummm, dresses, and skirts.

Me: Do you know that in some places, boys and men wear something called kilts?

We look it up on google images.

A: That’s only in pretend land.

Me: Let me ask you this, is it OK for you to wear boys clothes?

A: I can wear what Asher wears. Pants and shorts and shirts.

Me: Ok, so, can he wear what you wear?

A: No, silly, boys don’t wear pink.

Me: I wear pink.

A: Well, my teacher said boys don’t wear girl’s stuff, and she knows everything.

This helped me realize that there are lots of influences that a child has, and I’m only one of them. In many classrooms, there definitely exists very specific gender lines and roles – that go along with toys, dress up clothes and even class jobs. Getting to know them is part of being an advocate for your child, and will help in your continued dialogue.

Me: What about pretend play? Is it OK to pretend to be a boy or a girl?

A: yes. I like to pretend I am a boy –I’m Batman (in a gruff, and surprisingly accurate Lego Batman voice)

Me: And your brother?

A: Yes. He likes to be me, and play with my toys.

Me: You like that he likes to be you? (shocked)

A: Yes… sometimes – as long as he doesn’t copy.

BUILDING PARENTING WINS – 1 VIRTUAL LEGO AT A TIME

So, we had this proud parenting moment in our house recently when playing The Lego Movie video game. In the game, you can switch between a wide assortment of Lego characters and superheroes.

She felt an affinity for Batman, while she was curious about Wonder Woman, she decided she definitely preferred Batman. She ran around the house for days saying “I’m Batman!” in legit Batman voice. It made us happy that our daughter didn’t feel she HAD to be Wonder Woman, just because Wonder Woman happens to identify as Wonder Woman.

I know some people that I know would stop her if they heard, and correct her “You can be batgirl. Haven’t you heard of her?” She also wants to be Batman for Halloween. Boom.

DSC_1133

 

(Wanna have some fun? If you have both a girl and a boy, challenge them to get dressed in each other’s closet. It is a guaranteed good time. It seemed they felt like they were breaking the rules that society already set- and we all know breaking the rules feels really good.

EMOTIONS ARE FOR GIRLS AND WORK IS FOR BOYS

I have accepted that I will never have the communication skills of my wife. For instance, she can go into such detail explaining what happened during her day on the drive home from school. I have trouble mustering a 4 word statement to explain my day. “Good” or “Not bad” will usually be all I can muster. I am aware of this, and really try at it. But growing up as a male, I don’t think society challenged me to develop my communication skills.

I want both of my children to learn to deal with their emotions and communicate better than I have myself. So far so good, as Asher already is able to recognize and express his emotions more quickly than his 5 year old sister.

Ash: I’m mad

Me: You’re mad? What are you mad about?

Ash: I wanted to close the car door and jump out.

Me: Did you ask?

Ash: No.

Pauses for effect and stares at me.

Can I close the car door and jump out?

Me: Sure, just reverse the order.

At just 3 he is able to express his feelings so well, and communicate them to me, I have a lot to learn from him.

Emotions are not girl stuff. It’s life stuff. Learning how to handle your emotions is going to be pivotal in our child’s lives, and in their relationships the rest of their lives. Why would we prepare our daughters for heartbreak and conflict, but not our sons?

What’s your son going to do when he suffers his first breakup? What is he going to do when he has a conflict at work? “toughen up” is no longer an acceptable strategy.

It’s important that our kids understand their emotions, and have productive, helpful strategies to get through the big and powerful ones.

Breathing exercises have been great for our family, and we practice often when we’re happy. And sure, sometimes, when she is especially mad at me, my daughter chooses to hold her breath.

PRACTICAL LIFE SKILLS ARE FOR EVERYONE

Asher loves to help cook. And he has always wanted to “put back” whatever he is playing with. Montessori schooling only tells part of the story, Adelaide on the other hand would rather do anything but cook or clean. She will occasionally spread her bed, or put clothes away, but only ever under duress. Asher doesn’t mind, ever. And he loves to do dishes.

Oh how I wait for the day when kids are doing work independently around the house, cooking, dishes, trash, and, dare I say it: laundry. It is hard to believe there was a time when laundry was thought of as girls work. Learning how to cook, to clean after yourself, to take care of things, these are life skills. How did anyone make it without this crucial training? My wife will tell you these people just found someone else to do the work for them. Ahem. But if we want to raise independent, capable, confident little humans, how can household chores be skipped?


Giving our kids the opportunities to be themselves, enjoy a wide variety of things – instead of just boy and just girl things is a great start. But I encourage you to start a dialogue with your kids, about their thoughts on all this boy/girl stuff.

 

 

Tips for helping your child when he can't feel the need to go. Encopresis

Encopresis…When a Child Can’t Feel the Urge to Go

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Encopresis. It’s a problem I wouldn’t wish on any family. The Mayo Clinic defines encopresis as the following:

“Encopresis, also called stool holding or soiling, occurs when your child resists having bowel movements, causing impacted stool to collect in the colon and rectum. When your child’s colon is full of impacted stool, liquid stool can leak around the impacted stool and out of the anus, staining your child’s underwear.”

Tips for helping your child when he can't feel the need to go. Encopresis

Basically, if your child poops in his/her pants after the age of 4 on a somewhat regular basis, your child has encopresis. In most cases, the child has become so impacted that he/she has completely lost nerve sensitivity and no longer feels the urge to go. This is what happened to our son. Initially, we didn’t realize that my son had encopresis. In fact, I didn’t know the condition existed. Our son didn’t have the classic symptoms of encopresis or chronic constipation. He would have bowel movements every day, but when he had to go, he had to go right that instant. Somewhat frequently, he would simply poop in his pants. My sister told me that some mothers in her mom’s group had children with similar problems, and that they had been constipated. As a result, I took my son to the doctor, and they performed an x-ray. The x-ray revealed that my son was so constipated that his colon had stretched to an abnormally large size. As a result, he simply couldn’t feel the need to go.

DSC_0900

I was shocked. Our son ate purely whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables, bran cereal and oatmeal; yet, he had become completely constipated, so constipated that a prescribed dosage of laxatives from our pediatrician didn’t even get rid of the entire stool collected in his colon.

Like most parents when something goes fundamentally wrong during the parenting journey, I blamed myself and wondered whether I had done something to instigate the encopresis. I had heard that children could develop problems if you punished them for accidents or pressured them during potty training, so I never punished my son during the potty training process. Instead, I used sticker charts, rewards and apps as incentives (the potty training app being the most effective). As it turns out, I don’t think the problem necessarily had anything to do with my parenting. My son simply became too engaged in his play to stop what he was doing and go to the bathroom. While I didn’t know it at the time, difficulty in shifting attention from one thing to another or hyper-focus is one of the symptoms of ADHD. While not all kids with ADHD have encopresis, a German study showed that children with ADHD were 4 times more likely to have daytime wetting accidents. Another study showed that kids with ADHD were almost twice as likely to have encopresis than the general population.

Regardless of why or how the condition starts, it is important to treat it as soon as possible so that the colon can regain its shape and elasticity. Our treatment involved visits to a gastroenterologist, a complete colon cleansing for a weekend similar to prepping for a colonoscopy, daily dosages of miralax and fiber gummies, discussions with my son’s therapist, and my own realizations about my son’s behavior. I also have a friend whose daughter had encopresis, and she helped me a lot. Reading message boards about encopresis online was more discouraging than helpful. While we are not out of the woods yet, my son has had marked improvement since we discovered the problem. Aside from the medicine, here are the things that have helped my son:

  • Regular sitting on the toilet 20 to 40 minutes after a meal. I usually schedule these sitting times after breakfast, after school snack, and after dinner. In the morning, I make my son sit on the toilet for at least 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Having your child place his/her feet on a foot stool. Apparently, legs dangling off the toilet are not conducive for having a bowel movement. As a result, we keep a set of stairs (the kind a child uses to get into a bed) in our bathroom.
  • Bringing toys, markers with paper, legos or anything that will distract your child into the bathroom. I noticed that my son was having accidents when he was drawing or relaxed. As a result, I started storing some paper and markers in the bathroom. 
  • Using an incentive chart. The incentive charts have not been as helpful with my son’s encopresis as they have been with other behavioral issues. However, I give him a quarter to put in his piggy bank every time he goes to the bathroom by himself.
  • Taking a daily probiotic. I’m not sure if the probiotic has helped, but I figure it couldn’t hurt.

Like I said, my son isn’t cured from his encopresis, but he has far fewer accidents than before (one accident every two weeks as opposed to an accident every day). If your child has this problem, I wish you the best of luck. Dealing with encopresis takes a lot of patience, a lot of soap, a good washing machine, and compassion for a little body and mind that are not cooperating with each other.


Helpful Links:

The Mayo Clinic’s information on Encopresis

Kids Health information about Encopresis

A Seattle based child psychologist’s take on Encopresis 

 

Resources for talking with your kids about transgender

Let’s Talk about Sex(uality): Transgender

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Resources for talking with your kids about transgender

Unless you’re off the grid, unplugged or under a rock, somewhere on your feed, in your paper or on your television, the news of former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner openly living as Caitlyn Jenner appeared.

Maybe you watched the Diane Sawyer interview (I haven’t) or read the Vanity Fair cover story. (I’ve skimmed it.)

I have not bathed in the details because of my mixed feelings. To be clear, these feelings aren’t about Jenner being transgender. Parts of her 65 years of life break my heart. I don’t want to be a gawker. I’d like her and everyone else to live life authentically without judgement, discrimination and objectification. Ironically, living her life publicly, may pave the way for others to live authentically.

Talking to our kids

Maybe you’re wondering how to talk to kids about transgender. That’s why I’m writing this. But, first, I decided to go to the source. My almost-teen boy.

“So, what do you think about Bruce, now Caitlyn Jenner?”

“I don’t care. Doesn’t matter to me she’s a woman now.”

“Biologically, she’s not a woman.” Inside, I’m happy-dancing he used the feminine pronoun. We’d talked about transgender transitions a few days ago – including the anatomy details.

Boy, attempting to walk away and escape this conversation, fingers in ears, “Whatever. She feels like a woman, looks like a woman. I’m okay with that.”

Me, grabbing his arm, “What if it was your father?”

Boy, stopped in his steps as wheels turn in his brain, “Later, I’m outta here,” – as in ‘later dad, been nice knowing you.’

“Why is that so different?”

“That’s my dad, now he’d be my mom.” Enter gender roles, norms, society, etc.

“It wouldn’t change that he’d fathered you,” I explain. His fingers go for the ears.

“Relax. I’m not gonna talk about sex. Get those fingers out of your ears.

“He’d still be your biological father. Would that change? All of the things he’s been to you? Would it change your love for him?” I pelted him with questions.

transgender_quiz4.0“Well, no. What would I call him or her or …?” He’s concerned with practicalities.

“Dude, that’s simple, you’d ask, ‘Hey, what do I call you?’”

“Ok. That’s easy,” Problem solved, he turns to walk away. “I’ve got to feed horses. Later mom. I love you,” And that was as much as he offered. He was done.

Ever the persistent teacher, I add, “Really, you know, lots of things affect someone’s gender,” I follow him across the room pointing to the Genderbread Person “…biologically their anatomy:  you know penis, vagina, etc.; who they’re attracted to; who they feel……..” and with that, his 12-year-old brain hit Charlie Brown overload. The door opened and shut.

There you have it. Not the first time we broached it, and not the last. (I will finish explaining the Genderbread Person, come hell or high water.) In one way or another, we’d discussed sexuality, gender, and more, since he was born. What began with calling a penis a penis, continues with things that influence gender. To borrow from my favorite author: so it goes.

Genderbread-Person-3.3
There’s a lot of information in this one graphic. It’s nearly overload. That’s ok. Just consider it. We’ll talk about it in another post. Another day. No quiz.

More on transgender

Imagine attending a gala honoring your best friend: tux, and gowns required. No matter how long you look in your closet, there’s no tux. Not even a ball gown. (Hey, you’re flexible that way.) There are corduroy pants, an 80’s tie and a worn oxford shirt. She’s your best friend. She doesn’t care. She wants you there. Clad in corduroys you spend the evening feeling out of place. You leave, depressed about never fitting in. You feel worthless and judge yourself the way you believe everyone judged you. Imagine this feeling every day of your life. Every day for 65 years. That’s 23, 725 days. 569,400 hours. 34,164,000 minutes.

I’ll never know for sure, I imagine this is sort of what it feels like to be transgender – when you feel like a girl but your physical body screams boy! or vice versa. I’d guess the actual feelings are much worse. Like wearing corduroys to the gala – similar feelings on steroids and exponentially multiplied.

It’s accepted that most people form their gender identities by the time they’re 3 years old. If how they feel is aligned with their biological bodies – that’s cisgender.

For those who are transgender, born with one biological body and identifying as another, it’s the beginning of those “not fitting in” feelings. Society expects them to fulfill specific gender roles based on those physical bodies – regardless of how they feel inside. You get the picture. Maybe you begin to understand why 41% of transgender individuals attempt suicide and why more than 30% of LGBTQ youth reported at least one suicide attempt within the last year and more than 50% of transgender youth attempt suicide at least once by their 20th birthday. LGBTQ youth are twice, TWICE as likely to attempt suicide than their hetereosexual peers. Not to mention the increased likelihood of being victims of bullying and violence.

It’s hard to find an analogy to explain the intricacies of gender to my kids. It’s not perfect, but it’s an opening to compare it to eye color.* You’re born with the color of your eyes. You can’t change it. You can wear different clothes may bring out one color or another. You can buy colored contacts. At the end of the day, you’re still blue-eyed, but you’re so much more than just your eyes.

At the end of my day, I want my children (and the world, because I dare to dream big) to treat others with kindness, respect and compassion. I want us all to see the whole person – not only eyes, gender or sexuality. We are all so much more than a sum of our parts.

I want a world where Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t have adult children before being authentic. There is a poignancy in my son’s response to, “What if it were your dad?” The answer is different when it shouldn’t be. Suddenly, it’s real. It’s got to be challenging, maybe even painful for Jenner’s children. How much better would it have been if she could’ve been herself all along? The truth is, she’ll never know. Hopefully, her very public steps now pave the way for future walks of others. Not only for transgender individuals, but for those who love and support them.

So, this is way more than your basic sex ed. Or, is it?

Many of us talk with our kids about the physical act of sex. Some of us start young. As a former sexuality educator, I believe starting early and continuing the dialogue throughout childhood and into adulthood is where it’s at. The “act” of sex is a small part of a large ongoing dialogue. Like putting gas in a car is a small part of driving. It’s not the whole story. A solid foundation comes in handy when things like Jenner’s transformation take center stage over floods, wars, and earthquakes. (I’m looking at you fracking.)

Society, as a whole, recently started defining gender. Our understanding is new. Understanding leads to empathy and compassion. As Sam Killermann said, “Gender is something we all learn about as kids, but we learn a very limited concept of a concept that’s truly unlimited. ” When we consider about 40 years ago homosexuality was classified as an illness, we realize we’ve come a long way. I’m here to tell you, there are miles to go before we sleep.

How do you talk about these things with your children? Let me know in the comments. In the future, I hope to post more on gender, sexuality, and conversations with our children.

Here are some resources you may find helpful. Not all are perfect, but they’re all a good start:

18 Books to Teach Kids About the LGBT Experience

Great info for parents, educators, guardians, etc.

The Genderbread Person and more

Teaching Tolerance: The Gender Spectrum

Some jumping off questions for discussing gender stereotypes

Transgender

Parenting and Family: The Gender Spectrum

*Most experts believe there are many influences on our gender.

One Father's Desire for His Daughter's Equality

A Father for Feminism

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One Father's Desire for His Daughter's Equality

I have made that joke about the shotgun. You know, someone says to the father that his daughter is beautiful or that she’s growing up fast or that she’ll be a heartbreaker, and the father smiles knowingly and says, yeah, he’s already shopping for shotguns. He’ll spend his daughter’s teenage years sitting on the porch and cleaning the sucker all day, just to make sure every boy who comes by sees him.

Because, of course, a daughter is a father’s property and he needs to protect his property from being stolen and potentially defiled by another man.

by Gabriel Amadeus © 2012
by Gabriel Amadeus © 2012

Not such a great joke when it’s put in those terms, is it?

But I’ve made the joke. Multiple times. Because I don’t always think before I try to be funny. And because, while I want my daughter to grow into a strong woman who loves deeply and who experiences life fully, I am afraid of the men who will, indeed, attempt to treat her like property.

Almost every culture throughout the world oppresses women. Our culture is not nearly as bad as some but that doesn’t mean our culture doesn’t have a lot of work to do. American fathers don’t make jokes about needing a shotgun when their sons come of age. We assume our sons will be mostly fine. I want a world in which we can assume our daughters will be mostly fine too.

I have a strategy for this. And a metaphor.

Fathers: Feminism is our shotgun.

I know. Feminism is a loaded word (pun unavoidable). But it’s the right word because it means creating a culture where women have the same opportunities as men. Unfortunately, too many men see the current lopsided distribution of power as “the natural order of things” and thus perceive any attempt to level the playing field as an attack upon men. Children who horde all the toys also tend to see a request that they share as an attack. Temper tantrums ensue. Which is to say: I recognize my choice of the word feminism can create a certain amount of discord. Nevertheless, I’m committed to both the word and the principle.

I want my daughter to be strong. I want her to be independent. I want her to be resilient. And yet there is only so far personal initiative can take someone. Eventually, we all face obstacles that are not in our control. This is part of life, of course. But what’s unfair—what’s harmful to our society—is that, on the whole, women face more obstacles than men thanks to the long history and the continued prevalence of men intimidating, denigrating and injuring women.

I can’t list all the ways and all the places this happens. In my attempt to do so, this essay ballooned to 6,000 words and I was still only in the preamble. But I will say this: the first thing I worry about is sexual assault, because my daughter will be threatened by that possibility the moment she is old enough to date or so much as attend a party. And that threat will restrict her choices and her options in ways that will make her life less free and less enjoyable than the lives being led by the young men around her.

by Steven Depolo ©2013
by Steven Depolo ©2013

While we cannot expect a world free of people who harm others, can’t we at least expect a world where college-aged men don’t sexually assault their fellow students? Can’t we at least work toward raising our sons so that, when a young man comes to pick up my daughter, she (and I) can be sure he respects her fully and that she is in no more danger from him than any young man might be from a young woman?

Feminism is not just about raising our girls to be strong. It’s about raising our boys to respect and support our girls. That’s what I mean about feminism being our shotgun. The only way to dramatically lower the instances of sexual assault on young women without confining those young women to a life of limited liberty is to stop our boys from growing up to be the type of men who intimidate, denigrate and/or injure women.

I don’t claim this to be an easy task. A few talks about respecting women won’t cut it. Boys have to be raised from the get-go to view women as equals. And to do this, fathers must themselves be feminists, treating all women as equal and engaging in none of the women-demeaning banter often engaged in by men. Those demeaning words we hear (c— and b—- and wh—), they teach boys and young men that women should be denigrated whenever they don’t behave exactly as a man might like. And calling a boy slang terms for female genitalia or accusing him of acting/throwing/running like a girl teaches him that women are lesser than men and that being a woman means being something unworthy of respect. And I won’t even go into the myriad of ways men refer to sex as if it’s a conquest, except to say that if you believe sex is a conquest, then you, at heart, believe sex is a battle. Is it no surprise that some men raised this way will resort to coercion and even violence in order to “win”?

I know this essay is incomplete. I need a 100,000 more words with links to a 100,000,000 more words from other people. But I’d rather be incomplete than silent.

Father and Daughter

We fear for the safety of our children. We fear accident and disease and dumb mistakes and car crashes and drownings and falls and so much more. Unfortunately, we can’t remove all of our fears. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept a culture that makes us fear more for our daughters than for our sons. We shouldn’t have to consider shotguns on the porch. We shouldn’t even feel the need to joke about their usefulness.

I believe, with work, we can build a culture where our daughters are as safe and free as our sons. But we fathers will have to contribute to that work. We will have to be feminists.