Monday, January 21, 2008

Preparing Them For Life

I'm going to start by saying that this is not a meme. Its nothing I was tagged for. Its just something that's been on my mind a lot lately. I'm also really interested in hearing what everyone else out there thinks about this subject. How you handle it with your kids. How it was handled with you. So, please.... leave me a comment. Or even feel free to post about it on your own. Just let me know your thoughts.

Those of you out there with younger kids probably won't be able to relate to this particular post. That's ok. You'll be where I'm at soon enough. There are a couple of you out there who have kids at or around the same age as mine (Sue, Hallie, Flea and Karen come to mind), so you will be able to understand a bit more about where I'm coming from here.

Coach and I have never been the type of parents that shelter our children from everything. We allow rated R movies (as long as we know going in that it isn't beyond obscenely lewd, chock-full of nakedness, or more gore than story), rap music (even though I absolutely question WHY on this one), and XBox or Playstation games that are rated M (provided any violence is not simply gratuitous--HATE the Grand Theft Auto series, but the soldier or law officer games don't bother me as much--and we do stipulate that Bug can't play them yet).

Yes, we do have some limits. But my point is we don't hide them away from real life. We've tried to teach them to be comfortable within themselves, and to never be ashamed of their bodies or their image. We've tried to teach them the difference between appropriate touching and inappropriate touching, no matter who is doing the touching. We've tried to teach them that they can talk to us about anything, without fear of reprisal, reprimand or ridicule. We've tried to help them to understand that it is just as ok to be sad, scared or worried as it is to be happy and confident.

This has not been easy.

When it was time to really start talking to Jock about the birds and the bees, and all the twisted and poisoned pollen out there, I went to the Planned Parenthood website. I bought a ton of pamphlets, and sat down and read them all. Then I started leaving them around the house and in his room for him to read. I also showed him their teen website. Trust me when I tell you that I did more research on how to talk to my son about this subject than I ever did for myself when I was learning this subject! I wanted him to realize that pregnancy is the least of the things he should be worried about. We've constantly stressed the importance of condoms. EVERY TIME. Another site I like that I've recently found is notMYkid.org. It talks about all sorts of subjects that parents tend to hide their heads in the sand about.

We've always stressed to both boys, although maybe more to Jock since he's older, that if they come to us with a situation HONESTLY, then there will be no reprimands or punishments handed out. No matter what. Coach and I both remember exactly how we were at their ages. We both remember doing things we shouldn't have, getting into somewhat messy situations where parental assistance might have been a really good thing, but not going to our parents.

Our methods of talking to our kids are not conventional. We have never simply sat them down and talked to them. For us, for our kids, that approach doesn't work. For us, the best approach seems to be when we take them by surprise. Can you imagine ever forgetting the conversation about condom use if your mom springs it on you in the grocery store? And forget worrying about being too embarrassed to buy them for yourself..... dad told you that he'll always make sure and keep some under his bathroom sink for you. (Yes, mom knows about this, and apparently is ok with it since it means you'll be SAFE.)

We have always encouraged our boys to be independent thinkers, and not to get sucked into the notion that you or your friends have to be stuck in a particular mold. You do not have to look a certain way, or do a certain thing, for someone to be your friend. We've tried very hard to instill in them the belief that if someone truly is their friend, they will like them for the wonderful person that each boy really is. We teach them that if they believe in themselves, they won't need to do anything to prove something to someone who probably just doesn't believe in themselves enough.

As a result, our boys are always the first to reach out to the new kids at schools. They have never had problems with self image. Bug especially has no hesitation in asking questions. About everything. Seriously--EVERYTHING. Both of them are, for the most part, incredibly self-assured and confident people. They also are leaders among their peers. They have a very defined idea of what's right and what's wrong, and don't seem to hesitate to stand up for themselves.

I am so proud of them.

Its not over, though. We still have quite a few more years of talking until we feel we're blue in the face. We will still go through times where we feel like they aren't listening to us at all. But I'll keep talking. I refuse to be one of those parents who goes through life thinking "Not MY kid." Because I know that no matter how much I believe them when they tell me they AREN'T, there is always the chance that they ARE. So I want them to be prepared, and equipped with all the knowledge their brains can handle. About sex. About drugs. About alcohol. About depression. About peer pressure. About stress.

About REAL LIFE.

15 comments:

Burgh Baby's Mom said...

I've got some time, but this is the subject that freaks me out the most. I don't think there is a "right" answer for how to deal with it, but I think you are exactly right to be talking about it now.

Ugh. Parenting is not for the faint of heart.

Karen said...

Tough subjects. In fact, I stressed greatly even telling my daughter that someday she would get a period. But we've always told her that we're here for her, she can tell us anything. And one of the best things lately has been a really good friend. Some things she feels awkward broaching with her own mom isn't quite so bad talking to with a friend's mom. And as moms, we compare notes. I'm just glad that she's seeking advice and getting questions answered, even if sometimes she doesn't choose me.

LunaNik said...

I think the way you are raising your boys is wonderful and I can only hope that I can do the same with raising my girls.

Thanks for sharing this!

suchsimplepleasures said...

my oldest just turned 12, my son will be 12 in april, then i have an 11 year old and a 9 year old...and, i must say...i parent like you do. i believe in everything being out in the open. they are going to find out about stuff...and, i'd rather them learn from me and their dad, the truth...the whole truth and not some sugar coated version. we talk about everything at my house. they ask questions and, i'm not the type of mother who tells them to ask their dad...or their teacher...i tell it to them straight!!! and, i hope it will make them be more prepared when the time comes for them to call upon what they've learned!!
excellent post! really excellent, thank you!

The Sports Mama said...

Thanks for your comments! And the positive affirmations. The idea that we are doing something right with these two often gets lost amidst all that we feel we are doing wrong! :)

Anglophile Football Fanatic said...

I think always allowing your kids the ability to talk to you about anything is VERY important. And, I think it's okay that we disagree on how to get there as long as we all strive for that, right?

Flea said...

I think my hunny and I probably handle much of parenting the way you and Coach do. Except for the condom part. We've had "the talk" with the kids (separately, of course), gone through the period issue with the girl, talked about porn and addictions and all kinds of crap. But we've stressed, since they were little, abstinence. We've continually raised the bar for them, asking them to be more than society asks them to be.

We have a fairly open relationship with the kids, they ask all kinds of questions, but we've let them know what we believe is right, for us, as well as for them. We've also gone over our own mistakes, our regrets.

I think one of the hardest things is knowing that every step of the way, I've missed things. I've screwed up. And that even if I'd done a perfect job, they're people. They're going to screw up. So we're just giving them the best tools we can to move forward.

Parenting is just hard, hard, hard. And it sounds like you're doing it well. Really, doing it with your spouse, a united front, is the best thing to offer your kids. Yay Sports Mama!

The Sports Mama said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Sports Mama said...

AFF and Flea, thanks for the comments. I agree that it doesn't matter how we all get to that communication place, as long as we get there.

I do want to clafiy something, though....

Coach and I ABSOLUTELY stress the importance of abstinence to the boys. At the very least, waiting until they are out of high school. However, we both remember the fact that even though OUR parents wanted us to wait, we didn't, so we don't want to make that same mistake with our boys. We tell them that we want them to wait, prefer that they wait as long as possible, and go over all the benefits to waiting; but let them know that if they make the choice not to, to be as safe as they possibly can be.

KIDZMAMA said...

My oldest is nine and we've just started talking about this stuff. I'll definitely check out the sites you mentioned. The more information the better. Thanks!

Cecily R said...

Oh this subject SCARES me! Isaac is edging closer and closer to these conversations and once again, I AM NOT READY. I think I've said that fifty times this week alone.

It sounds like you and Coach have handled your boys with just what they need. I only hope that when the time comes with all our kids we can find the right way for them like you have.

Flea said...

Thanks for the clarification SM. Sorry if I sounded judgmental. This is just a tough subject that's difficult to discuss objectively. And I don't and can't judge anyone else. I screw up all the time. And I know that all the best parents (that's you and me, of course) have kids who do stupid things (okay, that's just my kids).

The Sports Mama said...

Kidzmama, I hope you're able to get some great information from them!

Cecily, I don't think ANY parent is every ready for these conversations!

Flea, I didn't take your earlier comment to be judgemental at all! I just realized that I hadn't clarified our position on the whole abstinence thing when I wrote the post. :)

Shellie said...

What I like the best about your approach, which is what I have always done is to communicate and not be shy to talk about things that are important that they learn from you. I just wonder how much of it sinks in. I know that in the end, it is their choice what they will do when they face each of these issues. I stress about if I have really been able to help them understand enough to make a good decision about things. I definitely am not the sheltering type. As I have gotten older and wiser I am trying to be a lot more selective about what gets watched and played at our house, for example, just because I want to reinforce our values. I talk to the kids about the whys a lot and what I expect and hope they will choose to do when they are away from me and I try to explain standards or criteria to help them make their own judgments. I also try, and feel like for the most part they do feel like they can talk about anything with me. I have tried to convey that I will always love them no matter what they choose and even good people make mistakes so they can come to me with things, but I still know they hide things at times because they don't want me to know what they've done. Mostly this is because their freedom also depends on showing they are responsible with it so it gets curtailed when they aren't. I don't feel like the limits are really high or the consequences severe, but there has to be something in place to teach trust and responsibility too. My 16 year old is the one I have the most angst about because it seems like even advice is taken as "I'm not good enough for you" at times. I'm trying to just get her to tell what she thinks and ask questions to help her analyze situations herself so she doesn't think I'm
an opinionated person whose expectations she will never live up to. I'm interested about what other moms of teens have found works for them too.

Debbie in NC said...

Hey...got here by way of Hallisicle..love her blog and yours too!

I have raised my son much the same way you are raising your sons. He is 21 and considering Air Force. He wants to travel. Having raised them the way you have...how do you feel they would adjust to military life. I am having a problem here with him understanding just how much freedom he will be giving up after having been brought up the way he has.

He was also a big football player for nine years thru high school. First at QB then WR in high school. Just didn't get big enough to go on to play college. He has a great job and we will pay for education if he wants to try again. Partied too much arghhh!

Just wanted your opinion down here in cold right now NC LOL

Thank you!