Because I Said So . . .

I Promise Never Say To My Children Some of The Bizarre Things My Mother Said To Me

“Someday you’ll have a daughter, and I hope that she’s just like you” (mom)

How many of us remember swearing when we were younger that we would not be like our parents? That we would never ever answer a questions with the completely nonsensical words “because I said so”? How many of us have used those exact words out of complete and utter exasperation only to realize two seconds later, ‘I’ve become my mother/father’? I’ll admit to doing worse. I’ve actually used the mother’s curse: I’ve said, “I can’t wait for you to grow up and have children of your own some day so that you can see what it’s like to have an ungrateful child.”

Yep. I have gone there. More than once. Even when I swore in my oh so holier than thou youthful twenties that I would never say that to my children, that I wouldn’t resort to the same tactics that my mother used. But of course, that was before . . . before my daughter went through her teens, decided to use her bedroom window as a door to the world, decided to run up $500 in long distance charges on our phone bill because we didn’t get her a cell phone, to name but a few. But that was nothing as compared to my oldest son, who really was supposed to be born to very rich parents because his sense of entitlement is beyond astounding.

However, I am told that this is not a phenomenon belonging to him alone. If all is to be believed, his entire generation is rich in its sense of entitlement and completely lacking in a sense of sexual morality. Okay. Let me stop here. I know, you will say that this is a generational thing, that each generation believes that its younger counterpart has no morals when it comes to sex. Our parents were astounded with the whole idea of “free love,” and then living together before marriage and then living together with no intentions of getting married. Admittedly, each generation breaks boundaries of the generation before.

But there are a few significant differences between the generation that grew up having sex from the 90’s on, and the biggest one, of course, is that no other generation before could literally die from having sex. You could catch some nasty diseases, but they were all curable. Herpes came along, and that one, we found out, stayed around forever, but no one died from it. It could cause birth defects if a baby delivered vaginally while the mother had an outbreak. But with AIDS, we were moving onto a new playing field.

“Babies comes from mommy’s tummies, but don’t tell anyone” (mom)teens-sex

So when you gave the lectures on sex and birth control and being responsible, you also told your kids about AIDS and what it was and what it could do, and you told them that birth control was not AIDS control, and you prayed that they listened and you hoped that they would be a little less free with their love than maybe you were and that they would wait a little longer than you did.

Turns out you were wrong. The average age at which teens lose their virginity today is 15, and more young girls are shooting for 14. I’m not using the phrase “shooting for” lightly. That whole peer pressure thing is a bitch. Only about one in seven uses birth control, often because the male pressures against condom usage, and the girl is afraid that if she pressures for a condom, he will find another willing partner. From the statistics, it seems that he probably will. A new study from the Kaiser Foundation shows that more than a third of new HIV infections in the U.S. occur among young people between the ages of 13 and 29, those very people who do not believe in their own fallibility, the ones who are not using condoms religiously like their older counterparts.

May I just pause here to say, What In The Hell Is Wrong With This Picture??? If you just read the paragraph above and are thinking that those statistics only apply to a certain ethnic group or only apply to urban high schools, well I hate to burst your great big bubble of unreality, but WRONG. In one of the surveys I read, 14 percent of the 10,000 participants said that they are having sex at school (http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/27706917/). Something even scarier: one in five girls claimed that she wanted to be a teenage mom. Teen pregnancies already occur in about three quarter of a million girls a year. Whoa!

What a lot of these young women, (using the term loosely) do not realize about frequent sexual activity at such a young age is the risk that they are taking with their bodies and how it might affect their ability to have children later in life. Their cervixes aren’t fully formed and are at greater risk for diseases such as chlamydia. Left untreated, chlamydia can lead to cervical cancer. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease often goes undiagnosed and untreated and can also lead to infertility. Undiagnosed STDs are passed from partner to partner, and male partners are not invulnerable.

“Women aren’t supposed to enjoy sex” (mom)

But what about intimacy? What about saving yourself for that special someone? That does not even seem to come into play with this generation. Sex is truly casual, referred to as hooking up; oral sex is seen as non-sexual, which, pardon the expression, blows me away. Something that we used to save for special relationships, fiancés even, these kids perform in the gym on people they aren’t even dating.  I found the following statistics from the The Guttmacher Institute staggering, and as you know, I’m pretty liberal:

  • More than 75 percent of teens have had sex by the time they are 19 years old.
  • Some 25 percent of virgins over 15 have had oral sex; of those who’ve had intercourse, almost all have also engaged in oral sex
  • Eleven percent have engaged in anal sex.
  • Of kids under 15, about 14 percent have had sexual intercourse
  • One quarter of teenagers have had at least one sexually transmitted disease
  • Young people account for half of the 19 million new STD cases each year.

holding-handsThe problem—as far as I can determine from reading about it in article after article—is that young people who are sexually active with partner after partner, treat sex like a party favor. They don’t understand the concept of intimacy, of finding closeness with one person and how that intimacy actually changes the whole sexual experience, transforms it. In an age of entitlement, in which the man-child wants what he wants when he wants it when he wants it and sees no need to wait for it, how does society convey intimacy against a backdrop of video games, movies, and comedians in which the badass refers to women as hoes and bitches, demeans them to non-entity status? How or why should one seek intimacy with an inanimate object? Bros before hoes, right?

How does a young female with limited self-worth thrive against such a backdrop? Bros before hoes—it’s the mantra she hears, and she grows accustomed to it unless someone tells her no, that’s not how it should be. You are worth something. And you hope that she hears you, actually hears you.

No matter what our teenagers are told at home, no matter what kind of loving, respectful relationship they might see between their parents at home, how can that compete with what happens when they walk out the front door? You talk and you talk and you talk, and then you read about how camera phones allow teens to send each other explicit pictures of each other that end up on the internet, and they may have just been playing around, but never thought about the consequences of a wired in world.

Being a good role model, taking the time to have those special talks, showing respect to one another within the family unit, reinforcing treatment of women as people not objects . . . how much more can you do? It tends to make me want to crawl back under the covers and never come out again, just when I was beginning to think that it was safe out here.

Too much to think about. Peace.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Captain Corey
Captain Corey

After being home with me for many long months, my husband is about to go back to work again. We are both conflicted about this change. I know that it is well past time. He has been increasingly antsy and impatient, and we have been sniping at each other over insignificant things since I finished school. It’s not that we don’t enjoy each others company, but he had a mission before when he was out of work: to help me get through school, and that mission has been accomplished. And he has accomplished his own mission–to finish the training that he needed to upgrade his license so that he could get back on a boat. So we both know that it is time. But after being together daily for such a long period, it is going to be quite an adjustment for the whole family.

I used to say that the only reason that my parents stayed married for so long was because my father spent so much time at sea and so little time on dry land. He was in the Navy for 20 years. He retired and tried to work at a job on dry land and hated it, so he joined the merchant marines. He sailed all over the world; his boat was even hit during the Viet Nam war. He worked on big boats until he was 67. He tried to retire when he was 62, but he just couldn’t do it. Not working drove him crazy, so he went back to work for another five years. He finally retired at 67 and spent the last six years of his life fishing and gardening, and he and my mom spent that five years in an uneasy kind of detente. It worked for most of the time, but then there would be flair ups, and I would be the U.N. It was like that for most of my life, but by that point, I had gotten really good at it. But my father was never comfortable anywhere except at sea. Anyone who really knew him, understood that about him.

I wouldn’t say that about Corey. He doesn’t sail on the big boats for months at a time. He is on near coastal tug boats for weeks at a time. That I can handle. I can understand the call of the sea myself. I am comfortable on the water. I love driving over bridges and looking out over the water when Corey is out and imagining where he is at that moment. The sea is alluring and hypnotic. I even toyed with the idea of buying a boat and living on it when I was in college–a Tartan 27′. To this day, I still wish that I had done it, but the more practical side of me won out. But that is why I understand why Corey likes his time on the water and enjoys his job, and I don’t begrudge him that time. I do worry because it isn’t a typical 9 to 5 job in any sense of the word. But I know that’s part of the appeal for him. And so I know that he needs to go back to his boats for himself just as much as he needs to go back to work for the family.

Which brings me to another point. My sons love Corey intensely. He has been there for them since they were in grade school. My older son in particular relates to his step-father very well, and he is at an age at which he would rather go to Corey than me when he has a problem because, well, I am female, and therefore, I supposedly do not know anything about his problems. I understand my son’s reluctance and am glad that he feels this closeness with my husband, his step-dad. It was one of the things that endeared me so much to Corey, how well my children adopted him. That was a prerequisite for my bringing someone into our family in the first place. But it was my oldest son’s easy love for Corey that showed me what kind of man he really was.

The separation from their father was very hard on all of us, and I did not date anyone seriously before Corey. In fact, I only went on a few dates as I really was not looking for nor expecting anything, so my connection with Corey was unexpected and surprising, mostly because of the difference in our ages. I deliberately did not introduce him to my children for a while as I did not know where things were going, but once I did let him get to know my kids, they began to open their hearts to him after their initial trepidation, and he did the same. I won’t try to tell you that the road has not had its bumps and curves because of course, it has. But he has learned from them, and they from him. So when he first started to go to sea, it was an adjustment for all of us, and they would count the days just as I did.

Now that he is going back, part of my anxiety is how Eamonn will act with Corey not at home. I am hoping for the best, but not expecting it. But I will try not to be a pessimist and give Eamonn the benefit of the doubt, so I must wait and see how things play out. Things will be new for all of us. Corey will be with a new company. I will be taking care of my own health problems and the house and the boys. The boys will be handling things with just me, just mom as mediator. And for a few weeks at a time, it will just be the boys, the dogs, and me. I’m sure we’ll be fine, and if not, I’m sure you’ll hear about it . . .

The Wonder Years

Today is my youngest son’s 16th birthday. I won’t bother to get into the details of how we celebrated because most of you would find it oh so strange; however I will share one of his deeper comments with you: “Krispy Kreme donuts must have cocaine in them.” I’m not so sure that he isn’t close to the truth about that one. If any of you have ever tasted these delectable concoctions from hell, then you will know of what I speak. Don’t even bother to swallow. Just apply them to the largest portion of your body as that is where they will eventually settle; have no doubts. 

But back to the birthday. After buying books–yes we went to the bookstore first, and we had to decide which ones to put back because we both had too many in each of our piles–we headed out to find other things for his birthday celebration. I have a special place in my heart or my youngest son, and I will admit it, and it is not that I love him more; it is that I love him differently. When it was time for him to be born, he did not want to come out. Right before his due date, he turned laterally (women who have given birth, you can appreciate this special pain). He put his elbows under my ribs, and I had to have a c-section to have him removed. My ob/gyn, with whom I have a special bond, said that there was no way that he was going to come out on his own. He had decided that he just didn’t want to leave. And it has been pretty much that way ever since. We have a connection, he and I, and I think that it comes from the fact that he is a living, breathing replication of my father in so many ways, down to his eyebrows and the way that he stands.

Nevertheless, one thing is for certain: no matter how old he gets, or how old his brother or sister get, I will never stop being amazed at how we reached this point in time, how we survived this crisis, or that calamity. I have to believe that there is some fabric that exists in our tapestry as a family that binds us together, that will not let us be tossed to the furies of the four winds alone without the support of each other. Ours is a pattern that fate has chosen not to weave easily but intricately, making us resilient, independent but always interdependent, creating a beautiful whole.