late night

Today was a day spent busy and half of it with a girlfriend out on the town; a meal out, drugstore hairdye for J. (an easy pleasure!), then to my mother’s for a shared dinner. Her tenderness towards my children and their ease together is something I often observe but don’t take the measure of. Tonight I’m thinking how much a presence she is with them and will be all their lives. Their knowing her, and vice versa, is a tremendous gift. It’s easy to forget just how fortunate we are.

For now, I’m weary and only have a bit left to write. My day was full and tonight I was able to enjoy the uncomplicated pleasure of taking a very hot bath with some simple castile soap, a steaming washcloth for my face, afterward a rough cotton towel and clean clothes, a glass of cold cold water, slipping into a warm bed next to loved ones.

Small-Minded
(Small Stone #2*)

Genial boundaries:
My attempt to save you from the embarrassment
Of wanting me

Small stone project

the noise of flowers and the smell of birds

Phoenix bundles up in layer upon layer and fits herself with her new hat and handwarmers and big boots, runs outside and jumps up alongside me in my mother’s truck, slamming the door which is a bit funny and doesn’t shut easily. Her face in the gloaming a freckled and friendly precious entity emitting some kind of ambient light that soothes me into a preternatural calm. We can sit in the car and drive in companionable silence and every second I feel grateful for my time with her and everytime she opens her mouth, I swear she says something so smart. At the grocery store she selects some flowers for her father, campanula get mee in a cool purple with a biodegradable pot. She pushes the cart, leaning on it while with one hand seats a complimentary Safeway cookie; I walk ahead with my moleskine cracked and my mind climbing up and around food needs for the family. For $67 I bring home several days’ worth of food and in the parking lot receive a call from my mother; dinner at her house tomorrow is secured, which means I can sew a little bit more than I’d originally hoped.

Terrible news accompanies us into the new year: our wee kitty Josie has been missing for four days now. The last time we saw her was on the snoopin’ walk I wrote about (and yes, we’ve cased the neighborhood and called animal control and put up fliers). I’m so sick about it I don’t want to think or talk about it as of course, I feel it’s all my fault. I worry so much she’s suffering somewhere. (This is unlikely. She’s either dead with no body evidenced, or has been snatched. Still. I obsess.).

If Josie doesn’t return, 2010 was shit as far as cats were concerned: first the loss of my beloved Blackstone then the mysterious and complete disappearance of Laurence and now this. Never have I had such cat-drama, and I’ve lived with cats all my life and in all kinds of wacky scenarios and alongside highways and in a coyote town and in the middle of the city. But when I think about it I realize for as long as we’ve had animals we’ve never been free of awful or sad or scary things happening (the death of wee little chick Peepteron 1 after my father’s demise; Felix’s possum-murder, Stryker’s mysterious deaththe neighbor’s loose terriers tearing up our chickens on Sumner, my mother’s dog being hit by a car a month ago – in both these latter two incidents the animals survived thank goodness) and really, pet ownership is just that. A deeply meaningful and joyous experience of love and companionship and the value or caring for another being; small triumphs and occasional large, very large, heartbreaks.

I really think my kids have a good perspective and I seek to emulate that.

They Placed 3rd In

And now? for a cold beer, soft bed, and warm husband.

***

Deep Winter
(Small Stone #1*)

Today the landlord didn’t come like he said he would
to fix the sink, electricity, leaking water heater.
We are interlopers in our own home
taking refuge from the cold.
Hanging shabby quilts, taking hot baths;
the bruise on my daughter’s hip faded
perhaps only a false memory

Small stone project

nocturnal goings-on

Nels’ current trend this week is to stay up all night – literally – and sleep all day. I just took this video at about 5 PM. Since sleeping solo is generally not practiced in this house, Hammy took one for the team and joined him. Warning, very low-light crap vid:

[flickr video=5247434161]

In other news:

I’ve joined Gertie’s Crepe Sew-along to upgraydd my wardrobe’s dress count. From zero to one. I’m thinking I’ll document the process, provided I can take pictures in the natural light of which there is little. Posting my process here on the blog is scary for me because I’m afraid of public failure. In the past I’ve had a hard time sewing for myself; I often end up unhappy with the results. Given that, so far my community participation with Gertie’s group has been to chickenshittily comment on the Flickr pool photos. It really is a fun and no-risk endeavor to watch other people select fabrics and sew!

I also want this baby wrap pattern pretty bad so I can punch myself in the eye when I sew it up and observe its cuteness.

And the news really putting a spring in my step, this morning Wendy Priesnitz from Life Learning Magazine contacted me to ask if she could publish a piece of mine. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her work and her publication and I’m very pleased she wants to use my wook. Can I get a w00t?

friday fan-fucking-tastic

Family!
“The Importance of Family Dinner” by mamapoekie
This subject was a tricky one for me as until very recently I revered and “enforced” family dinner (the enterprise has good intentions, of course, and is also such an awesome thing to root-toot about and we’re told if we don’t do it we’re what’s Wrong With America). Of course, my kids and husband and I still eat dinner together almost every night, except now it only happens when people want to, not because they have to or are nagged at (there’s a real difference!).

“Thoughts on Man Caves, Mom Caves, & Gendered Space” by Alexis at the Studioist
I love Alexis’ pieces as well as her rather considered responses to anyone who takes the time to work out a comment. She is a gracious hostess.

The new Life Learning Magazine is out. Well-worth the subscription (and if you write an article, you may get a discount / free subscription).

Science!
Mantid of the Week at I Blame The Patriarchy
Twisty’s been posting less, but each post is enjoyed. I think she has the most tender heart underneath all her meanie.

Porn! (not really, something way better actually)
thethickness.tumblr.com
Edit: see comments.

Halloween!
Super-easy ghost cloak at mermag.blogspot.com
I will be using this. Probably in a few minutes, actually. Yes, not everything I sew is some goddamned masterpiece.

“Scary Decor”; the Studioist (again, but I love her posts and the brief discussion of Halloween experiences in the comments; also she said I was the “best Mom in the world”, praise I sorely need  on days like today where I hardly do anything decent as a mother

“Stripes”, a how-to for making striped fabric (bonus, the tute’s by my brother’s lady J.)

Etc!
“Hey Skinny…” at Twisted Vintage. Loving those little red shorts.

Great review of a pretty spooky movie: “Re-visiting the Canon: Candyman” at PostBourgie. This movie scared me quite deeply as a teen.

Guess who I think is sexy? No, guess. But you know, I think a lot of people are sexy. I guess I’ve got that joie de vivre. P.S. I’m also a big fan of his work and think he’s a compelling performer. The last bit of it I saw was in Wives & Daughters (Netflix instant). Did you know I’m a fiend for pre-20th century British period pieces? WELL I AM.

One imagines this Elliot Smith mixtape on soundcloud is against the Rules of the Intenetz & Copyright, but I have been enjoying a listen.

***

I am a total mess today. I can’t even express how little-by-little I’ve fallen behind to where my life currently feels like a small, grounded hulk of a shipwreck. I won’t feel this way soon. But I feel this way now and I’m being very hard on myself.

a stutter step that you hear when you’re falling down

The onset of the colder weather is a very odd and precious time for us because, like I imagine in days of Yore, it usually involves a period of compromised resources and more meager habits, an odd preciousness of more carefully-selected enterprises and purchases and a more dear experience of daily life.

Case in point: car troubles could be a source of anxiety if I let them. We already only have one car working and it’s not working well. The worst problem (of a handful), the most serious that I can tell, is a leaking of at least two seals which lends itself to an extremely wet interior now that the rain has set in (we’re talking squishy sounds when you step in, they’d be satisfying if they didn’t herald a fall-apart we can’t afford) which means children who have to hold groceries and my purse and their books on their lap (for fear of water damage), and even rusty bits beginning to fall off the car (frowny-face). We do not have a Plan at this point, or rather we could have lots of Plans if we had a bit more funds. Fine, whatever. We will survive. In fact I look forward to whatever future we have – as far as a car goes – as the current one is not sustainable.

Today I worked extra-hard, despite a lack of sleep and that nagging irritation I was seriously behind on sewing work (which I am), to put the house in order and love up the kids and make a lovely, nourishing dinner for my husband when he arrived home from his late-night class. I haven’t really mentioned this much but Ralph Hogaboom is being rode hard and put away wet at work since the very busy summer, without abatement so far. Ralph is a stellar man and as you might expect a heroic Systems Analyst (or twatever they’re calling them these days). His job is kind of both of ours in the sense I can listen and advise and think about his position and be entirely impressed with what he delivers. It’s not that I couldn’t respect (or sleep with) a man who did only his lukewarm-best in the nine daily hours he’s ransomed to Strangers… it’s just, knowing about his work reminds me of why I like him so much. Enough to breed with him, as it turns out.

In addition (today) I kept getting distracted by our children, so funny and alive and particular. Nels bobs around playing his various games and requires my participation at times; he delivers kisses and hugs and tells me how Pretty I look today. I take my daughter, after soccer (practice goes an extra half-hour because they are enjoying themselves) and we get some milkshakes. Her body is wiry and cold and she comes to the grocery store with me and pushes the cart and is the Best Company Ever. My last $50 of the week, gone, parts of it spent to make her suggested dinner (spinach and bacon quiche, served alongside a multicolored salad and some rich red chianti for Ralph and I). After dinner, at home, a hot bath for both of us.

Of note: today I also wrote a small magnum opus: “part 2 (.Tenderness.)” at Underbellie (a follow-up for “Hi, my name is Kelly. I’m a recovering Good Parent (Part 1)“, penned about three weeks ago). Response has been wonderful including a specific and incredible Thank You email that reminds me why I write.

Sometimes I write a rather polished post and other times, like tonight, I write until I’m about to collapse into a hot bath and then bed. What are you gonna do.

Question: How do you deal with the subject of pedophilia?

Trigger warning: this post contains discussion of abuse and pedophilia.

I got a great question from Formspring today. I keep thinking I need to kill that account. Its encouraged anonymity is not coincidental to being the only time I’ve received hatey-mail. Still, besides that one bit of spew (which was quite clarifying for me, actually), I’ve enjoyed what’s been put forth.

Today:

Free range kids (“Men and boys in the locker room”) got me thinking: pedophilia is at once real and the source of way too much fear. I know lots of adult pedophilia sufferers, but I don’t want that to justify paranoia inflicted around my kids. How do you navigate this?

(Note: I don’t feel qualified to direct advice to sexual abuse survivors. The question here asked is how I (and my husband) navigate this terrain; here I’m going to express some of the limitations that mainstream parenting culture purports and my response to the suppositions of “safety” afforded by these commonalities. Full disclosure: neither my husband nor myself were victims of sexual abuse as children, although I have experience of sexual abuse and coercion as a young adult.)

Thank you for your question!

What is “too much fear”? If you mean many parents/guardian adults/teachers have an inflated sense of Stranger Danger I’d agree with you. If you seek to quantify the suffering that abuse has wreaked on children and grown children, I don’t know if we can ever say “too much”. That said, our mainstream media certainly deals in many scarepieces and/or graphic (and repeated ad nauseam) true accounts of Misery Porn and Sadistic Pervert Fables and I do think this has tainted parenting culture and village child-rearing (because the rest of the village is participating, whether they want to admit it or not) in unhelpful and harmful ways.

Yet for those of us who are able, it is very possible to parent our hopes and not our fears with regard to keeping our children safe.

Most abuse of children is inflicted by those the child knows and trusts. That can help give us pause when we worry about the lurking fellow at the library or the one jumping out of an alley (these incidents happen, but are much rarer). Compounding the misery around this topic, many abuse victims are routinely silenced, blamed, second-guessed, minimized, and even vilified. Embarking on a discussion of the relative safety of Strangers often re-injures those who were abused by strangers. Any discussion is best served by sensitivity and acknowledgment: because it is true, many have been victimized.

A re-focus on the family, where most abuse occurs, might help us respond with more compassion and intelligence when stranger abuse/violence is inflicted on children or the very rare case of stranger abduction (about 110 cases a year in a nation of 40 – 45 million children). Ironically (and tragically) our cultural concepts that families are “safe” and we can keep our children unscathed by strangers through the right amounts of control and vigilance, means not only are we frightened and teach our children to fear but we are currently responding very poorly indeed to those families who are the victims of tragedies, mistakes that could happen to any of us, or a combination of these events.

Provided your children are currently safe, we can do much for our them while they are in our care. We can help them – or rather, not hinder them! – as they develop their personal intuition, inner strengths, knowledge of autonomy, and internal convictions of right and wrong. Sadly many mainstream parenting strategies actually serve to subvert these developments or seriously compromise them as to be nearly unworkable.

For example many parental/adult discussions about “safety” for kids involve measures of external control, “rules”, and lectures. Those kinds of external motivators in fact detract from our children’s inner strength and personal knowledge of righteous anger and/or violation (or “uh-oh” sense, as I’ve heard it called) and also subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) reinforce the idea they are second class citizens and grownups know best. Most kids spend their lives being told to do what grownups tell them. When someone comes along who wants to abuse them, if they have any skill and finesse at all, our children are easier marks than many would like to believe. Not to mention we are teaching future perpetrators if you’re big enough and strong enough (mentally, physically, etc.) it will be your dominion to do with others as you please.

I don’t have very nuanced advice for recognizing pedophiliac tendencies within a family or trusted friend – the lack of detailed and holistic discussion of this is sad indeed as these abuses are endemic (for instance, note the dismissive reviews and overall low ratings of a nuanced and disturbingly real, complex, and absolutely true case in the documentary Awful Normal, which I recently viewed). I do think familial abuse could almost be called commonplace – and yet it remains under-discussed. I am not very sophisticated at guessing as to WHY it’s so under-discussed. I have some theories. Culturally we undervalue women and their lived realities and the majority of sexually-exploited persons are female-bodied – but by no means all of course. Culturally we oppress children (even very loving adults/parents/carers do, because they don’t know better or are too scared to do anything but what is handed to them as “good parenting”) but we aren’t ready to admit that, of course, abuse is a tragic and inevitable result of this systemic oppression.

As far as pedophilia goes, as long as our culture is invested in oppositional sexism, misogyny, and dominator culture, we will see a rich (if underground) environmental home for full-fledged pedophiles. Our culture supports many of the cornerstones of pedophilia – look around at images in our MSM and you will see the constant sexualization AND infantalization (meaning here enforced powerlessness) of women and girls – women turned into “girls” (or told they should try to achieve this through surgery, hair removal, “feminine” – as in docile and het-male-oriented – behavior, surgeries including labioplasty for a “young” vagina (a cosmetic procedure currently on the rise), a widespread disgust of, dismissal of, trivialization of or lack of respect afforded to women’s bodies including, notably, childbirth and breastfeeding, images of rape in television and film made “sexy” and provocative), and girls in turn given messages their sole functions are either (eventual) reproductive ones, roles of ornamentation, or to satisfy the normative heterosexual man’s tastes and preferences (this in turn gives our men poor scripts as well). The power dynamics reified in these cultural messages are staggering and speak to our complicity in the power dynamics inherent in sexual abuse. In other words Monsters don’t just hop out of closets and grab our little girls (and boys); we create them.

This all sounds very glum – but I hope any adult/parent/carer will take a few minutes to realize how vulnerable our children are and how they need our better care – and they need us to do better to change the world, not just for our children but for our children’s children and so on.

As for us and how we, Ralph and Kelly Hogaboom, have “handled it” – the answer would take many more pages for me to type. The subjects of sex, sexism, power, and bodily autonomy are ones we’ve invested in since before the children were born (because we are genuinely interested in them, not because we seek to “program” our children properly); we don’t hide these subjects from our kids but we also don’t frighten them. The in-tune parent/carer will usually see when a child is frightened or unsure or curious or playful. The in-tune parent/carer will respond when a child asks a question, then be a decent-enough conversationalist to pick up cues as to the child’s understanding level and willingness and interest to listen.

I ask my kids a lot of questions. I ask them if it’s okay to kiss someone if they don’t want you to. I listen to their responses and thoughts about marriage and procreation. I ask them if a man can be married to a man. I ask them if they know what “rape” is. I obviously don’t ask them all this at once! Rather I am condensing a series of amazing conversational moments (and much learning for all parties) over the years.

I play games with them. Some of my favorite involve asking them permission to touch them, or willingly giving them power over my body (to “control” me like a voice-activated robot, or to push me down, etc.). Sometimes I ask them permission to kiss them (and then wait). Sometimes I ask permission to PINCH them (never painfully – by the way, my son loves this game). They enjoy having power and they enjoy scaring themselves. I don’t hold them down and tickle them. I don’t make them submit to my desire for them physically (although sometimes I will beg for a hug). I come to them when they ask me to hug or cuddle them (they do this often). I let them decide how they want their bodies treated, including what medical care they’d like and what food they want to eat and what they want to wear (and no, I did not give them this much freedom from the moment they were born either… when children are babies it is very appropriate we decide what they wear and and that we lock up poisons they might try to drink and what medical care they receive – the latter is a responsibility that we often take for granted but is rather mind-blowing when I think about it).

On that note I also do not disrupt their bodily autonomy. MOST parents I know, my husband and myself included until relatively recently, are very poor at this – we disrupt children’s spiritual, emotional, physical, and bodily autonomy on a *regular basis*. Sometimes I think re-affording children that autonomy is the very, very best thing we can do to keep them safe (some amazing and wise parents/carers know to do this from the beginning). It also does wonders for the health and happiness and harmony of all family members.

How to do that, to begin to do it or learn or deprogram, is not something easily expressed and depends on individual factors. I am always happy to listen to specific family scenarios and respond. I’d like to think I’ve helped many families (and I’m told I have). You can email me at kelly AT hogaboom DOT org.

Good luck! You have an awesome, incredible, wonderful responsibility. Raising children has been the best, so far, adventure of my life.

“I used to know it by review tests, and restlessness.” *

Today I received a wonderful query from Formspring:

Q. You often link to a *lot* of fascinating web-content. How do you find/keep up with all of these bloggers/sites/etc? Are you magic?

A. I have a feed reader and two tweetstreams. Anytime I run across a blog or newsite or humor site I enjoy or am challenged by, I add it and it automatically aggregates the stuff. On Twitter I have a personal account (kellyhogaboom) and my… I don’t know, “social justice” account (underbellie). I follow (mostly) friends and/or awesome, funny people at kellyhogaboom and I follow (mostly) other friends or sites or groups in activism, social writing, etc. I use a program where I can see both these tweetstreams (also search terms I am interested in too).

The problem isn’t growing a crop of great information, that’s easy. The problem (for me) is not getting fatigue from it all! Obviously one can OD on too much horrible news about homophobia and bullying and rape of Congolese women and girls, etc. Occasionally I go clear my feed reader without checking some posts. I can also just skim my more intense tweetstream. It depends on what resources I have. In general though, I do read a lot online.

I am currently looking for humor-only or uplifting-only content for those times I need some nice, positive feelings. Problem is even on humor sites there is no escape from the crappy stuff I read all day and the work I am committed to. For instance I remember I was looking at cakewrecks and having a great time laughing. Then there was a cake with a naked woman on it giving birth. You can imagine the negative and horrid comments people were making about women, their bodies, birth, etc. It really killed my “fun”.

So far cuteoverload is doing well as a recharge. Talking to my husband, snuggling with my kids, going running, and having four cats is also helpful. At times cooking takes me out of the reading-funk although I am known to cook and be thinking and reflecting the whole time.

I take some pride in the fact many people find my writing (my own and shared) influential and helpful. It *is* work, in case anyone was wondering!

The query was a good one because it allowed me to take my bearings and once again consider how much reading I do daily – reading that could easily overwhelm me. I’m a passionate person and I use my brain, mind, soul and body to live out my life. I sneer at the concept of “balance” as I know it from all the laydee magazines because they’d have me doing yoga every day in my cute little outfit and making sure to get my “date night with husband” each Friday all tidy and take vitamins first thing in the morning with my balanced breakfast and make sure to have an hour to myself before sleep, [snore]. Now I admire a routine with that kind of regimented “balance”, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not my life today. I work and play and run and rest in fits and starts and it works very well indeed for now.

Here are two inspiring pieces I found today:

The first, an article called 70 Ways Unschoolers Learn to Deal with Frustration at Bonnie’s blog Follow That Dream – a delightful series of work as evidenced by the About Me and Notes On Language pages (the latter of which is so incredible I want to crib it).

This particular post of Bonnie’s (read it. No read it. Do it. DO IT) hits me deeply because compared to most anyone I know, Ralph and I are staggeringly “permissive” parents. We are mindful of their health and safety; in their desires and lifestyles we are helpers, not interference or dictatorial Adults who Know Better. Thus, for examples in how this plays out, our children do not go to school, they are not required (anymore) to do household chores, we do not make them eat some things, we do not limit the consumption of other things. We do not punish them if they do something “wrong” or behave badly. We do not take things away from them to solve problems. We do not manage their friendships and their schedules (although we help them with anything and everything when they want it). All of this is a constant ongoing work and we make mistakes and slip-ups, when our behaviors do not support our ideals. Personally, sometimes I’d love to skip to the part where I’m getting it Perfect. It ain’t gonna happen.

From what I’ve seen, many people tend to read about these strategies and – depending on whether they’ve met us – react quite strongly in opposition. I’ve heard many claim parents who employ such methods and eschew mainstream ones are “permissive”, “neglectful”, “naive”, “irresponsible”, “lazy”, “goofy”, “crazy” – etc (I notice those who’ve met us, when they offer an opinion it’s to compliment our children and express admiration, if a bit of confusion). The list goes on. It’s hard to speak about parenting when you really are doing it differently than lots of other people; one reason it’s hard to encapsulate our non-mainstream parenting strategies and the incorrect assumptions about our life is that the attacks come from all angles (I mentioned at Underbellie how our family choices vis-a-vis television and film could be tasked as overprotective and isolationist or neglectful and far too worldly, depending who’s doing the judging).

So I write about family bliss and I write incident by incident, I guess, although I am always happy to get in a larger-scale conversation with an interested party and I’m honored to be asked for advice by families who live differently (and if you think about it, all families live differently from one another).

Bonnie’s article spoke to me because lately I’ve been thinking about how many people work so very hard to make their kids learn this or that on their (the parents’/carers’/school’s) timeline, or to require them do specific “character-growing” work X or Y (again, according to the adults’ wishes). It’s all done in the name of loving and caring for children, as are many great and not-so-great practices. In addition there’s a lot of fear involved; our parenting culture contains trace elements of the poisonous pedagogy; people really truly believe if they let their kids have freedom during the day their children would do nothing but grubby television-watching and eating terrible food (for. ever.) – and by the way “television” and “junk food” and “video games” and a variety of other Vaguely Defined but Terrible Institutions are feared like the Bogeyman and, by some, regulated like radioactive material.

In my peer group (white, working-to-middle class Americans) many people truly believe the only way to prepare kids for Adulthood involves making them do prescribed housework (called “chores”). Alternatively or additionally, some parents/carers make their children do chores because they themselves have a dread and hate of this work (gee, wonder where that came from?) and believe the only way to manage these bad feelings is to require the children shoulder some of the burden (see previous parenthetical). People truly believe it’s OK to force/make kids do what they want because in their view adults know better, including when and how to entertain the children’s wishes and desires; sure, many adults feel icky about this but figure there’s no way around it. Some adults seek upbeat and stern and loving and “in control” methodologies which convince them they’ll get Good Results however deep-down repugnant the means are at times.

Adults employing these strategies often (but not always) don’t want to hear about ours. Ours make them feel worse about things they already feel kind of bad (and usually helpless) about. Our strategies make them angry because they sound overly- … something (permissive, naive, “hippie”, “thinky” – take your pick). Our strategies leave them confused because even if they could see their strategy isn’t a very good one, they literally have no better ideas to get what they want. They are fearful if they abandon what they know they will only be further lost. They don’t want to let down their kids, even if they know deep down they already are.

Discussion of our strategies often triggers fear, anger, and resentment in many adults, most of whom weren’t treated all that well as kids themselves (either by school, parents/carers, or their community – often all the above). I can often tell when these painful feelings are being triggered: it shows in body language, tone, avoidance, loaded words, “you” statements, thought-talk (instead of feeling talk) and large-scale predictions of imagined failure (ours and other families like us) instead of examination of current lived realities. Examples, “Well YOU have to make kids such-and-such or they will so-and-so.” The friend who studiously ignores ever discussing parenting with me even though he knows it is my deepest passion and an area of decent expertise (no really!). Statements of nostril-flaring shut-down such as, “Well there are lots of different ways to do things” or “Different things work for different families”. I dislike those statements tremendously and here are a few reasons why: first, it is self-evident not only that there are many, many ways to raise children (including destructive ones!), but also that there is no one Whole Grain Jesus pundit, mama, or papa who has All The Answers for Everyone. Secondly, when this is said during discussions of parenting what the speaker often means is, “I am upset/angry/scared and I no longer want to talk about this.” And I wish more people could say that instead. Trust me, it is an amazing stepping stone in self-awareness and a tool to move forward with clarity.

For my sake, I’m grateful I’m not – today – too scared, damaged, or lacking resources to have been unable to listen to other points of views and other strategies. If I had, we wouldn’t be where we are today; and I’m so grateful for where we are today.

Bonnie’s post refutes some of the fears I used to have and gives me gladness at being able to move past them. Because there was a time I did indeed fear “spoiling” my kids by raising them the way we have been (and I’m not past these fears entirely, they crop up now and then – but they have largely subsided). I did believe that unless I required “chores” and school attendance (and “success”) they would become (or remain?) helpless, “backward”, sheltered, “spoiled”. What I see instead are two amazing, capable, richly-happy, well-exercised, well-loved, joyful, passionate, intelligent (oh. my. goodness. for realz), friendly, comfortable, clear-eyed, opinionated, fierce, funny, and courageous little people. What I see in a lot of other children is fear, confusion, despondency, duplicity, fear (yeah, I know I said that one already), restlessness, dullness, repressed anger, “manners”, pack behavior, manipulation for leverage – and fear. If I had to come up with one word endemic of many children I meet today, it would be Suppressed.

Of course, children are incredible and I have not met one whose bright spark has been entirely crushed (we do, tragically, know this happens). It is my unique and much-honored joy to have many children in my life; my own and their friends and the neighbors. It is amazing how well children respond to better treatment, no matter how poorly or carelessly they may be being treated elsewhere. I truly hope, although I don’t think of it very often as I’m usually very busy just, you know, living, that I am a bright spot and a loved and trusted adult in their life. I’m so glad too I got to live long enough to un-learn some of what I learned as a kid, and to experience children without the fear and anger I used to – a fear and anger and resentment that churns inside all-too-many adults.

“Children are not our own art products to be turned out well, but their own life work in continual process.” ~ Jan Fortune Wood

In other wonderfulness, here is a a poem I read today by Mary Oliver:

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

***

* Taken from a wonderful quote by Lisa Asher, an unschooled teen.

safety

Trigger warning: this post contains discussion and links regarding bullying, homophobia, racism, and suicide.

I didn’t know the phrase “bullycide” before yesterday, but reading the stories of Asher Brown and Tyler Clementi I immediately understood what such a word meant. And I had never heard the phrase “ching-chonged” either but immediately “got it” while reading the Disgrasian piece on Asher Brown (and resultant comments) (h/t to Jim for sharing this via Twitter).

It is not easy nor trite for me to read and then write on these stories. They are devastating for me to consume. I feel such sorrow for these suicide victims and their families; I feel such sorrow for the other children who victimized these young people and now have to live with their role (if they even know enough to feel it); I feel such sorrow for the adults who could have done something to help and did not, figuring the problems were not that bad or not a big deal or just the typical stuff that happens amongst kids, or even thinking it is funny after all to make fun of a gay man for being, you know, gay, c’mon, admit it.

I feel some anger but mostly – a deep sadness. I think of my own children when I read stories like this.

Today Lesley at Fatshionista published a moving, at-times graphic personal account of bullying: “Sometimes we fight back by merely surviving: A missive for the bullied”. In fact if you’re pressed for time you should read this piece instead of mine as it’s probably better than anything I’ll have to say.

But if you’re here reading, still, and you do care what I think, I do have some ideas.

I am fortunate in that growing up I was not routinely or regularly bullied by adults and children. This is not to say people were not occasionally unkind, destructive, abusive, or wished me harm; this happened and some of these incidents are quite specific in my mind. And perhaps more relevant to my relatively privileged life, it isn’t so much that incidents felt isolated but that bully culture affected me very much; of course it did. It’s one thing to not be the target of focused or endemic efforts (like Asher was), but to know exactly the many behaviors or traits that might be used as fodder for violent or social reprisal, to also know the randomness in some bullying choices, to live in the fear of slipping up or being exposed or just being turned against by the alpha-whomever of the group?

Yeah. It affected me.

Bully culture changes those who don’t remember being afraid, although sometimes we’ve grown a nice thick skin over our past instead of coming to terms with it. Those of us who followed the influence of the ringleaders, or those who did not speak up when we saw it happening (I think we all have membership in this club) – this hurt us, too. We have the shame and sorrow and confusion of having participated – having made the jokes or written the cruel note or laughed into our hand in gym class while throwing glances and smirks at one another. We tell ourselves we just ignorant, or we didn’t really mean it, or the intended victim laughed it off. But we know deep down we committed wrongs.

All of this leaves a mark, sometimes an indelible one.

Most people reading here would claim and believe they are past all this. They do not support bullying behavior; they would never stick their head out of a car and yell at an Asian youth nor spit on a fat high school girl’s jacket. A denunciation of cruelty with a claim we are outside the Game is simply not good enough. We need to speak up, and we never know when we’ll see it next, and we will at times fail to do the right thing. Yeah, it is often not easy to speak up, not for most of us. Sorry, we don’t get a “pass” just because we don’t like to feel Awkward.

We need to grow our compassionate space. We need to re-gain touch with our empathy and understand many victims and perpetrators are damaged, hurt. We need to quit thinking – let alone saying – victims are “whining”. We need to stop reflexively giving them adjuncts to “get over it” or grandly offering our Smiley-Face Stories of the things we’ve gotten over. This is so profoundly wrong-headed and illogical and harmful in aggregate it almost fills me with despair to type it out, as I’ve seen it so much.

Bullying and abuse are not solved by our loud proselytizing of victim-charging stratagems like “turning the other cheek” or “walking away”. While I have employed both tactics successfully – and if you have too, good for you! – that cannot be our primary response and prescriptive to victims. Victims need to be heard, to be listened to; they need our presence and witness and compassion. We can do more active, loud, vocal work elsewhere. There’s lots of that to do out there, too.

It is our job, those who can do the work, to protect other people. It is our job to stand up for those who lack the strength or the resources to, or those who have internalized the messages already (as these two young men who eliminated themselves did), or those who tried to fight back once, or twice, and were beaten down so severely they have been traumatized (big or small, for five minutes or fifty years). It is our job – those who can – to protect these people even if they aren’t in the room in that moment. It is our job to address the bullies; starting with ourselves.

None of this is easy; if it were, we would not have these problems because (I do believe) most people want very much to do right. It’s hard to make change because we do-gooders, even we, are scared and unsure. Yet bullying and xenophobia are not problems relegated to small towns and they are not always coupled with overt, Afterschool Special music scores nor will we be guaranteed that “plucky” hero that sticks up for him/herself and then lives a life free of tormentors.

As if.

We need to stop thinking of bullying and aggression as outside our world, our families – as living somewhere else.

Have you apologized to those you bullied?

Have you apologized to those you did not protect?

Have you confessed to someone your mistakes, or admitted them to yourself, that you might move on instead of defending your past?

Have you made terms with your own fears, if you can?

Have you asked for help if you don’t feel strong, or safe?

Have you asked someone else if you can help them, if they seem scared, or unsure?

It’s rough out there sometimes. Like Warren Zevon said, “Life’ll kill ya.” But I don’t like thinking about death and destruction and torture all the time. I like to live, even joyfully when I can. Maybe we can help someone who needs us.

Maybe we can provide for them even a little bit more than we did yesterday.

blah blah blah, but there are two kissing bunnies at the end, promise

Daily I pore through several feed reader subscriptions, online community discussions, and email newsletters that come my way. Ralph joked the other day sometimes my posted links seem like a lot of work. I have to laugh because of course I never expect any particular reader to read through everything I post (although I am always, always gratified to hear someone tell me my output has supported, engaged, and/or challenged them). But I should mention the links and works I post here or write about in my impeccably-annotated Underbellie articles are a mere fraction of what I often digest – including those things I consume with regularity and hardly ever write about here – like the Mr. X Stitch blog, married to the sea comic, and my Yahoo groups including OttobreLost Skeleton of Cadavra, about four or five various unschooling lists, and a few more.

I am ambivalent about the amount of material I ingest. One one hand this is my brain food which I then process and mess about with through reflection, conversation, and writing (in about that order). On the other hand I wonder if I am synthesizing or consuming this sheer number of things in the most effective way and if this is a smart way to live my life. I guess it’s time for me to dust off that Magic 8 Ball and ask.

Still, this all seems my speed (for now). I don’t much worry about the time these materials take from my daily work. As anyone who reads here knows I do indeed have “a life” outside the internetz* which involves a lot of social time and cooking and family time and friends and neighbor kids and running and other fun fuckeries (the bodywork of running is very helpful for the active brain). And no matter how much I output, it’s very much at speed there too: my buzzing little brain and my 90 wpm typinz (& talking) skills keep me in a state of Flow.

So out of all I read and shared today, for some reason this tag-end of a parenting mini-digest struck a chord with me:

“Paradoxically, when you don’t ‘need’ your child to be happy to prove you’re succeeding, your child will eventually be much happier!”

This might sound paradoxial, or alternatively to some people Boring, but it has absolutely borne itself out in our life with our children and I take a moment to express my gratitude for this.

I used to manage my kids’ feelings quite a bit. I’ve always known this wasn’t probably the right thing to do; breaking the habit is hard. I used to get irritated with their “whining” or their lack of enthusiasm for Household Chores or what I perceived as a lack of “team” effort (such “team efforts” were usually things Ralph and I had decided and apparently expected them to get right on board with, Borg-like rather than being their own people). I admit I still get triggered by my son’s now-relatively rare verbal and loud protestations. I believe I am triggered not because he is especially loud or “unreasonable” (as people like to call children) but because I am still coming off a worldview I used to live by – that my children’s behavior was a direct reflection of my competence as a mother (not just a parent, a mother) or my worth as a person (not just a person, a woman). So Nels complaining or yelling wasn’t just a bit rattling or inconvenient, it was a referendum on my Worth that induced deep-level panic and anxiety (no matter how well or poorly I might have seemed to perform in the moment). I’m sure many parents reading here get what I mean.

Still, I have improved.  I can’t speak enough to the freedom and livelihood and ease of living we four have been experiencing together increasingly over the last – I don’t know, six months or a bit more. As might surprise exactly no one, my kids’ “whining” has gone down about tenfold since we started practicing a different lifestyle and their expressed contentment and happiness (and therefore “helpfulness”) has increased proportionately.

Today I got in a brief discussion with a Smarty McPhd-pants regarding parenting. He told me there were all these studies about “strict” vs. “permissive” parenting and my kids might benefit from “permissive” parenting but other kids needed “strict” parenting (so HANDS OFF discussing the subject, as the “well there are all sorts of ways to parent” phraseology is often used). For the record, I believe the “strict” vs. “permissive” parenting is false rhetoric predicated on the concepts there is no third way, that parents are the Authority and any strategy resulting should come from the Top-down and be managed or enacted in a sort of God-like fashion.

I am so, so glad for our sake we started finding that third way (or whatever you’d call it). It’s for that reason I love writing about it so much (sorry if it’s boring!); nothing thrills me more than to think other families might begin to experience what we have.

Before I get too New Agey or touchy-feely on this subject I will just say our household experiences more peace, joy, and liveliness than it did even a year before (and we have always rather enjoyed one another). So today when I read this parenting digest quote I see the truth. That in freeing up narratives and expectations about providing my kids with everything, including Moral Conduct Prescriptives and management for their daily lives/schedules – and in having the resources to feed and house our foursome, a position I strenuously note not every family, sadly, finds themselves – we have indeed released ourselves of quite a bit of stress and our children seem much happier.

As with most large-scale positive improvements there have been adjustments I could not have foreseen and some have not been easy. I need to write about them soon because I have not, not yet. But at this point today I’m feeling very grateful for happier children; a gift I did not anticipate entirely nor could have predicted how exactly I would have manifested. I could write many examples in how this has been lived and experienced, and maybe I will soon.

In other, even more boring Kelly Hogaboom ramblings, I am currently working on a sewing project with a very challenging fabric. It is eating away at my patience and, it must be said, my self esteem. It reminds me a bit – just a bit – of the tough work of baby-birthin’. If you get too worried about the pain of having your body contort through birth you could get scared and unable to manage the Now (I said this project reminded me of birth a little bit, remember?). I am trying to stay focused and move carefully and steadily through the challenges even though I am not happy with them.  Soon I will be working on another project, with another fabric – and I’ll feel less crabby.

I’m also going to make a request of any who might comment here.  It is not easy for me to say but I am going to anyway.  I feel a sense of overwhelm at the moment very much related to A. my difficulty in adjusting to less sunshine (I have learned over the years this really does affect me) and B. issues going on with loved ones in my life. While I am happy to keep comments on my blog open, I’m hoping for gentleness and support in any who choose to comment over the next day or so. Not-commenting is fine too – or even just sharing rather trite, winning stuff – like kittens etc. Because you know what? Kittens Etc. are important. Maybe even essential for some of us. Maybe this is why I have four goddamned cats. Who are seriously a source of joy and silliness and simple, uncomplicated rituals of mutual contentedness.

* Although it always vaguely irritates me when people pick on those whose social lives are very internet-based, as if certain kinds of friendships and social interactions are inescapably less “real” than others – bullshit.

linky mcfuskerson

In a few hours I’m off to the City (not really: Olympia) to watch Ralph and Liights play sweet, sweet music (I will also be giving Flo a squeeze as I haven’t seen her in a while!). I’m also hoping to eat some spicy Thai or Vietnamese cuisine until my mouth explodes in a hedonistic flavor party. While I’m rocking I’ve got some links for you all to bask in the radness therein:

Local:
Mamma Mia! is playing at the 7th Street Theatre tonight and tomorrow. I might go tomorrow. Anyone want to come with me?

Social:
Tami Harris hits it out of the park at psychologytoday: “What’s so wrong with ‘sounding black?'”

Proof that a man can do Feminism right: “Silence, Ines Sainz and Offensive Lines” at postbourgie

Idzie published “Misconceptions About Unschooling” at her blog I’m Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write. It’s a great piece (of course). I get a huge, huge laugh of the people who occasionally come to this 19 year old’s (incredibly well-written) blog and tell her how if you unschool your child he/she won’t learn how to write! NO SERIOUSLY! This happens!

“On Birth Rape, Definitions, and Language Policing” by Cara at thecurvature; some day, I truly hope, we can begin supporting victims instead of re-victimizing them by denying them their lived experience.

Practical:
“Cloth diapers for apartment dwellers” at hobomama. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. You know, I no longer use diapers but I seriously, seriously love how supportive, helpful, and awesome the parents/carers are who write these types of DIY primers!

Krafty:
“Kids Clothes Week Challenge (Fall 2010)” at elsiemarley. What do you think? Should I do it? What should I make?

Humor:
This made me laugh until I had tears in my eyes: “The Inconsiderate Breastfeeding Woman” at citizenofthemonth.

I’m not exactly sure what category this post is in, because it’s funny but apt and brilliant and my favorite of all posted here today: “Kids and wheelchair manners” at badgermama.

***

In other news, last night I received an email that included this passage:

Some days I feel as if I am standing inside a thick, heavy, almost greasy-feeling cloud of frustration, guilt, hopelessness and torment. It actually presses down on my shoulders physically (at least it feels like it). The moments that you share are like one of those industrial strength hurricane fans that they use in the movies. Once I begin reading, the fan begins to blow that cloud away. I can breathe again. I can be happy about something again. By the time I’m finished reading, I’m ready to take on the next challenge.

So… that was pretty wonderful to hear.