Would you like a sandwich? Talking consent with my son.

I’m not one for hiking.

I love nature and all, but I don’t go out of my way to roll in it. I typically go for meandering walks with my three boys and little dog in tow. Last Friday, we decided to go to the Ledges at Fitzgerald Park after school. Again, not because it’s something we typically do but because school is almost out for summer.

I’ve been asking the boys to contribute to a list of things we’d like to learn, places we’d like to visit and things we’d like to try while enjoying their summer break from school.

In preparation for their return home, I’m shoving things into the tiny spaces of my calendar. I’m building even bigger fences for my beautiful lines in the sand and readying my home for the storm that is three growing boys. I know they haven’t exactly been away at boarding school but for 6 blessed hours a day, they’ve been at school.

It kind of feels like I’m battening down the hatches.

I’ve got lots to say about preparing my nonprofit entrepreneur life for the challenges of summer break but today, I’m going to talk about the Duggars.

More specifically, the topic of consent.

Even more specifically, that time I had an awkward conversation with my 11 year old son while hiking the ledges about consent, sexual assault, sex and sandwiches. Not exactly in that order but all of those things were discussed. Stick with me here.

As with most problems, it all began with NPR. I’ve been really into podcasts lately. I listen to them while doing dishes, walking to the office, folding laundry, pulling weeds. You name it. If there’s a quiet span of monotonous work, I’m listening to either The Moth, Being Boss, Invisible Office Hours, On Being…you get it.

At around the time that the past crimes of Josh Duggar were being splashed across the web, I had just listened to an episode of This American Life called Birds & Bees.

The byline had read:

Some information is so big and so complicated that it seems impossible to talk to kids about. This week, stories about the vague and not-so-vague ways to teach children about race, death and sex – including a story about colleges responding to sexual assault by trying to teach students how to ask for consent. Also, a story about how and when to teach kids about the horrors of slavery and oppression in America.

Okay. Sure. Let’s give that a listen.

It was thought-provoking and the individuals interviewed brought insights that made me consider my own language regarding these topics.

Especially the segment that detailed the experience of a facilitator teaching consent on a college campus. There were many moments where male students were very vocal about their confusion about what consent means. Honestly, it sounded to me like one of my kids looking for away around following the rules.

It’s cool. That’s often how developing minds expand.

You can listen to the podcast (highly recommended) but basically, they wanted answers to questions like;

What if she said yes earlier in the day?

Wouldn’t checking in ruin the mood?

What if we’ve both been drinking?

Scary stuff. As universities across the country work to educate men on how not to rape rather than teaching women to prevent rapes from happening to them, these questions were indicative of just how much more work there is to do.

Fast forward to Friday morning. Josh Duggar sexually abused children in his own home as a teenager. Some of the girls he victimized were his own sisters.

You’ve probably read the headlines. Unless you’ve decided you’ve had enough terrible news about teens sexually assaulting other teens or children and adults covering it up and/or blaming the victim. I know I’m pretty tired of this story.

Exhausted in my bones.

Here’s where this story hit me.

The Duggars practice a faith that I disagree with but they are clearly parents who are trying to raise Godly people. Does their definition of Godly and my definition of Godly align?

Girl. Nah.giphy

But they love their children and they have invested their entire lives into homeschooling their children and separating them from the immoral, sinful world chocked full of people like me. People that dance, drink, get tattoos, accidentally swears, works outside of the home, don’t have a particular church called home and allow children to watch superhero movies that are rated PG13.

If there’s a slippery slope, I’m surfing that bitch with wild abandon.

As I’m reading the stories, I’m getting scared. I’m thinking if these people can’t raise a son that can honor the bodies of little girls in his home, including his beloved sisters, than how the hell am I going to raise 3 sons to be good men?

This is where my mind was at as we stepped onto the trail at Fitzgerald Park. I’m not saying this was a correct mindset. I’m just being completely honest and letting you into my mildly over-reactive brain.

My oldest son held my hand as I turned to him and began to tell him about Josh Duggar.

Yes, I have a tween that will still hold my hand. BOSS.

I explained what Josh Duggar did in language I decided was appropriate. I expressed how saddened I was by the story. I used the word sex but I didn’t giggle or blush.

I was a total adult. Then I asked him,

Do you know what consent is?

He said he didn’t know that word.

Well, let me give you an example. If we were home right now and I asked you if you wanted a sandwich, what would you say?

He shrugged and said, “I’d say yes.”

You just consented to a sandwich. You could have withheld consent by saying no and you can withdraw consent at anytime if you change your mind.

He understood. Phew. Now on to the tricky stuff. I explained the podcast I’d heard and the questions the college students had asked. I said,

Some people think that if someone gives consent they can’t change their mind later. They can’t withdraw it after it’s been given. So if a girl says she wants to have sex and then changes her mind….

And then my son interrupted me to say,

Well, that’s silly. What she says now trumps what she said before.

YAHTZEE!

Collect yourselves. It’s too early to celebrate. I had follow up questions and concerns.

I’m so glad you feel that way. I just worry. You know? I do the best I can to make sure that you and your brothers understand things like this. I try to have the important conversations with you but if people like the Duggars with all of their focus on holiness can muck it up, what can I say to make sure you guys understand.

Mom, I don’t know. I mean, you’re the parent.

Damn. That’s true. A point that makes the reaction of the Duggar parents all the more maddening. As parents, your job is to not only teach the lessons. Your job is to hold your children accountable when they break them. It’s not easy but it is necessary.

Also, can we just agree that modesty cannot be the scale by which we measure how much our children deserve to be sexually assaulted? Instead, let’s send the message that your judgement of an individual’s morality is not grounds to associate their being with a lesser value.

Let’s agree that even if you think someone is behaving immodestly – totally using Duggar language here – you still don’t get to sexually assault them and blame them for your disgusting, criminal behavior.

No one deserves to be sexually abused or assaulted. Ever.

WORLD, WHY CAN’T WE AGREE ON THESE SIMPLE IDEAS?

There’s so much more about this that bothers me but I thought I’d focus on a conversation that can benefit our families and our communities.

Consent. Teach it. Add it to the list of things you plan to teach your children about this summer. Use metaphors like sandwiches.

Or the next time a little girl says she doesn’t want to be photographed, don’t. Show her you deleted the image and thank her for telling you how she feels. Recognize that she owns her body and the right to opt out of you taking pictures of it.

Or the next time a teen cringes at being hugged, step off. Better yet, start by offering a high five or a hug. Give options. Not everyone wants a hug from you. It’s true!

The next time you witness your child stepping into a friend’s space without consent, teach them to check in while the stakes are just Legos and unwanted squirts from a water gun.

It is so very important.

Sincerely,

Tashmica

PS – I really enjoyed this post about teaching consent to children. Check it out and then share one of your favorites in the comments.

Happy to help!

I want my children to grow up to live a life that fills their spirit with bliss. I want them to walk with purpose and offer compassion in their own unique way. I want them to wake up every morning with a fire in their belly for social justice.

I’m not going to lie to you. I want my children to be activists.

You wanna be a lawyer? Oooh, how about immigration law or The Innocence Project.

You wanna be a doctor? I hear there are kids with cleft palates who could use someone like you. Have you ever heard of Patch Adams?

You wanna be a fireman? Do it. Saving lives, protecting families is an honorable gig. Be safe. Bring me stories.

This probably doesn’t surprise you. It shouldn’t. Conversations in our home revolve around the celebration of their interests and guidance towards how they might use their day job to serve others.

I will admit that I’ve also told them to make it so mommy doesn’t have to work. I recognize that these are conflicting instructions but I figure either way, I CAN’T LOSE!

Real talk. Nobody saving the world is rolling in bank but they are rolling deep in the good.

My kids watch me. As they all do. They 11136651_10152893200734022_8788192720637140555_ncome to the events, they sit through the meetings, they help their momma empty the car after the latest event. They know my elation and exhaustion. They know my successes and my frustrations. They get to witness it all.

Should make for a great book someday.

Lord, help me.

I often worry that it’s all too much. That I do too much. I worry, like mothers do.

And then, I get an email like this:

image

Have any brochures coming up that I can help with? If so, let me know.

He ends his email in the same way I do.

Happy to help!

It’s never too early to learn grassroots organizing. #amiright

As a side note: that’s my best friend’s face making a cameo appearance. Hey girl, hey!

So, my son is sitting on the Teen Yoga Committee for my foundation. He is the brother of the founder of the Dog Olympics. I’m thinking, he will be learning some communications this summer. And the best part?

It’s all because he’s happy to help.

My children will be who they are meant to be. I enjoy watching them change, grow and become more and more independent of me. Different than each other and bringing their own brand of amazing into my life and the lives of others. It is a remarkable privilege to give my children the room they need to be who they are and then watch the magic happen.

Wouldn’t you agree?

May the life I give my sons now, lead them towards their own bliss. Amen.

Love,

signature1

Happy Birthday Vito!

Dear Levi,

At this time 4 years ago, I was in labor while your father drove us through the first snow of the year to the hospital.

It was beautiful. Everything was covered in soft white snow untrampled by people’s feet.

I was in horrible pain. :)

You were in my arms shortly after that.

I think it’s funny that we started calling you “Vito” for your bossy ways a year later. As the baby, you learned early to assert yourself to be heard through the pandemonium of this family.

We joke about your mob boss status. Truthfully, you hold us hostage with your charm and sense of humor. You are a source of laughter for us all.

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We love your voice. We love your questions and your imaginings.

We are happy to celebrate the day you made our family complete.

We love you.

Love,

Mommy

Remember The Time

Remember that time, I had a pretty good blog.

I would write things.  You would read them.

Sometimes we would laugh at my parenting shenanigans and other times we would cry about my past traumas.

We built a relationship.  We were falling in love.

I took you out for coffee on Saturday mornings and showed you photos on Wednesdays.  We had a routine.

Then I started seeing other people.  Well, I had been cheating on you for months with Roller Derby.  However, recently, I started also seeing Education.

My life is squeezing my blog out.  It is squeezing my time for reflection and creativity in this space to an all time low.  My blog already lived on the fringe of my family time.  It slept at my feet and often got kicked off the end of the bed.

Well, now The Mother Flippin’ Blog is sleeping on the floor in the basement.

Let us take a moment to review my ridiculous schedule.

  • Monday is now assigned reading night after an early evening of helping with homework and making dinner.
  • Tuesday I have an online class followed by half a roller derby practice after an early evening of helping with homework and making dinner.
  • Wednesday is my only free night and my two oldest boys have karate.  After which I try to squeeze in a little homework so that I can be ahead of the curve.
  • Thursday is roller derby scrimmage night (FUN!) after an early evening of helping with homework and making dinner.
  • Friday used to be family night and if I can squeeze that in, I end up staying up until midnight finishing my online assignments and working on my portfolio.
  • Saturday, if I do not have a roller derby bout, I have a day at home with my little ones that I spend cleaning at a relaxed pace.
  • Sunday, a final roller derby practice (Endurance. Uuuugh!) an online class and meal prep for the upcoming week.

This does not include the 40-60 a week I work, have meetings or the time I take to be a good wife, daughter, sister and friend.

I am breathtakingly busy.

I am an overacheiver by trade.  I could be less busy if I chose to get less than a perfect 10 on every assignment.  Why would I do that though?

I could have more time, if I didn’t try to help my children with their homework or insist on tucking them into bed on the nights I do not have to skate.  Who would ever want to miss those kisses and snoozles.

I have also started doing research for my book and sometimes, I open up a dusty box and find anxieties, depression and sorrows I was not looking for.  When that happens, I slip up into my attic and hide until I can allow myself to cry it out on my yoga mat or into my keyboard.

I now remember why crock pots are the greatest invention of all time.  I check my calendar every morning and still managed to miss my first physical in two years.

(Don’t worry, I will call and reschedule.)

I am tired but I miss you.  I will try to remember to call every once in a while until our casual dating can turn into something more serious.

Until then, feel free to date others but don’t forget about me.

Love,

Tashmica

PS – I have recently discovered Tumblr and I love it.  You can find me there on the go OR on twitter @MotherFlippin

No Fair: A Mother Allergic To Hugs?

This morning I awoke to the soft carpeted thuds of my seven-year old’s feet rounding the side of my bed.  He quickly scurried under the covers and his head popped up next to mine.

“Good morning, Momma.”

Isaac & Mommy

“Good morning, Little Fish.”

I smoothed back from his forehead dark hairs recently parted by a mischievous scissor incident last week.  He wrapped his arms around my waist and folded into my body.  I love that my children are still small enough to fit so close.  I can imagine I am still carrying them in my womb.  I miss that time of wonder and flesh rolling with their bodies shifting under my skin.

Within minutes, Levi came to us in a flying leap.  He kissed his daddy on the face about 13 times, rolled over, lifted his arm and said,

“Mom, smell my armpit.”

I don’t know why I get armpit and dad gets showered with kisses.  Levi made it up to me by rolling over again, announcing more than asking, “Dad, smell my breath.”, before breathing hot into Paul’s face before he could contest.

For a time, we are cuddled in a warm cocoon.  Limbs all tangled with covers as we put off heading into a day apart.

Suddenly, I realize that I cannot move my arm.  I realize that I cannot quite roll over because my legs are under the dog.  I find my body in a contorted position that I cannot change or control.

And just like that, the panic sets in.

Continue reading

Happy 7th Birthday, Little Fish

This week marked the 7th year of life for you, Isaac.

You are the little boy we named “laughter” in Hebrew and watched blossom into a true joy. You are the prankster in our family. You love to pull pranks and whether we fall for the joke or not, you still point and laugh uproariously.

This year has been a year of seeking for you. You are the finder of rare rocks, interesting bugs, magic potions and the very best hiding spots. You are starting 1st grade this year. I can’t believe how you have grown.

I am not entirely sure why we are so lucky to have you as a part of our family but I am so happy you are. Nothing would be near as funny, sweet, joyful or loving without you right in the middle of all of us.

We love you, Isaac.

Mommy loves you.

Enjoy a whole, full year of learning, seeking and finding new things. Thank you for sharing your discoveries with us.

Sincerely,

Mom

Seek & Find Isaac

Happy Birthday, Isaiah!

Dear Isaiah,

The day you were born,

I held you in my arms like a secret the world didn’t know yet.

Even in your mystery, I felt like I had always known you.

You existed in me long before the moment you were placed warm on my chest.

Even now, I cannot imagine the space where you begin and I end.

Happy Birthday, Isaiah.

With all of my faith, hope and love,

Mommy