Monthly Archives: July 2013

What Have I Done to My Kids? No, Real Question. Please Answer.

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While visiting my sister today, my son and I were sitting in the floor playing princesses with my 3 year old niece when my 10 year old said something like, “Let’s talk about ‘How to Make Love Like a Porn Star.'” I was taken back for a moment, then I realized that this is, of course, my kid, and he has not been sheltered. First of all, he doesn’t know how to make love like a porn star. On our recent trip to New York, he saw a copy of Jenna Jamison’s book on the shelf. We had a conversation about it. No biggy, just the title of a book, right? Well, I’ve gone back and forth in my mind about how to raise my kids. Should I shelter them? Should I expose them to things and have conversations about them? I went with the latter because I feel that it is better for them to hear it from me than someone else. I also feel that the more stigma or taboo we put on things, the more curious kids and teens become about them, driving them towards experimentation. So, we have regular conversations about sex, drugs, addiction, religion, crime, etc. My question is, am I corrupting my kids too early?

      My daughter has a friend who is forbidden from reading things like Harry Potter and Twilight, while I encourage them so we can talk about it. Last year we read the entire series of Harry Potter, and we talked about the implications of religion within the books. We discussed the attractions that the characters felt. My kids were 9 and 11. My daughter read the Twilight series, and we watched the films when she turned 12. We talked about how Bella and Edward waited to have sex until they were married, even though this is not realistic in our day and time. Other parents know this, and I can feel them judging me when we share a bus to field trips.

      My thing is that I am trying to be realistic. I know the statistics. I’ve taught middle school. I’ve heard 13 year old girls talk about getting pregnant and how cute their babies would be. I’ve also taught those girls who get pregnant and never finish school. I’ve seen kids on drugs, and I’ve even known kids who did sexual favors for drugs. So, I want my kids to know how real things are in this day and age. I want them to be informed about everything I can possibly think of.

     We live in a very conservative state (Alabama), and abstinence is taught, which is good but unrealistic. Most of my friends lost their virginity around age 15, and that was 15 years ago. Today, the average age of girls losing their virginity is 13. So, I want my kids to be well-informed before they make that kind of decision.

      In my own experience, I had one “talk,” and it went something like this, “Sex is something that should happen between a husband and wife.” My mom told me that she had raised me (I was around 13), and she hoped that I would make the right decision and tell her when I did. Luckily, I had a smart boyfriend who took me to the clinic to get on birth control. However, when we broke up, I wasn’t so smart, and I ended up pregnant my senior year of high school. This wasn’t the worst thing that could’ve happened to me, and in fact, I truly believe it was the best. My daughter changed my life for the better. Ignorance is not bliss when you’re a bored teenager in a small town. I was hanging out with a bad crowd and headed down a scary road filled with parties and drugs. Getting pregnant made me straighten my act up. But, like I said, I know that it could’ve been worse. Not having discussed the consequences of stupidity as a teenager, I was making horrible decisions. I put myself into a lot of situations that could have ended my life, and I now feel like it was mostly because I was a stupid teenager, but also because I was lectured instead of informed. There is a difference, especially for teens. Teens do not want to listen to adults telling them what to do and how stupid they are. Teens need guidance.

     Ultimately, I know that in the end I will probably have screwed my kids up anyway because I am human. I’d just like to know someone else’s opinion on my parenting skills.

My New York City

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Small-town girl’s subway rants while visiting a friend for the first time in New York City

The city quakes with life. It calls to you the minute your feet hit the pavement. The blind man beckons for your change. The man in the suit reads his paper. Neither of them notice each other.  The subway stops. A middle-aged black man gets on with his toddler son in a stroller. The boy feeds his father a Cheerio.
Down the street the noise is endless. You look up. The buildings seem to lean in to each other.  Their size is overwhelming. The music booms and we order a Bronx Pale Ale. Our food comes out sizzling,  and it’s delicious. Back on the street the city swells with a mixture of tourists and locals. In some places the lights are so bright it’s difficult to discern whether it’s night or day.
The next morning I wake with an  excitement that it wasn’t a dream. The city exists, and we are in it. The streets are fresh and the atmosphere changes from one block to the next.  We emerge from the subway to romantic music played by an Asian woman on an accordion. The walls are covered in colorful murals of animals and sky scenes in blue, gold and green. The museum is booming with people of all ages and nationalities. The exhibits map our fascinating history.  The hot dog stand serves us up a juicy New York dog. On the way to the subway, a runway model struts her stuff for all her friends.
The doors open to the another section of the city–home to the World Trade Center. The history floods into my veins as I remember these streets from 9/11. The news clips of the twin towers flash before my eyes; it is all too real. The people crying and falling from windows; the stories of children who would be orphaned because both of their parents worked there; the rescue workers crushed by the debris. These streets scream remembrance.
Returning to the subway we grab a slice of pizza that is like no other–thin, cheesy and with a sauce that’s not too sweet and not too spicy–perfection.  The numbers get blurred, and we end up in Brooklyn. Every section of this city has a different story to tell. The kindness of a woman who can tell we’re lost touches me beyond belief.  This day has been full of emotion–the city is touching my soul. After this long ride on the dragon in the dungeon of the AC train, we emerge in Harlem once again, and it’s a relief.
Asian fusion calls our names as we make our way to Broadway. The crowd floods into the theatre with the excitement of the stage surrounding us. As the munchkins fill the stage,  the atmosphere becomes Wicked. Drama and comedy join together for the next few hours. My exhaustion hits me, and the city carries me to 137th.
We join the speed again in the morning at Lenny’s for bagels and coffee. Dropping off at Steps for ballet feels like throwing my daughter to the wolves. Competition surrounds the little ballerina from small town Alabama.  We trek over to Central Park and find the woods booming with bikers and runners and the yoga groups and couples with picnics. We discover Bellevedere’s Castle and sit on the steps to enjoy the view.
Our feet hit the street on our way to soak up our last day in the city. The shops on Fifth Avenue burst with consumers searching for the products to complete their lives. We pass Lincoln Center and I envision the thousands of dancers who have stepped out chasing their dreams on that stage. My guide discovers the key to my heart when he suggests that we go to the New York City Library. Over 6 billion books live on those shelves. We pass the familiar sites of our favorite shows–30 Rock and the hotel from Bass Industries of Gossip Girl and visions of stars behind cameras dance before my eyes. As we cross the street from one borough to the next, it is like entering a completely different city. The Upper East Side ends and we venture into the busy and mysterious streets of Chinatown. I immediately decide that this is my least favorite section and hope to hurry out. We purchase our souvenirs and move on to a pub for drinks and a place to rest our weary feet. The sun begins to set as we stroll into Little Italy and again we leave one city to enter another. The atmosphere is filled with romance from the music and the smells of pasta.  Tables lines the streets. We make our way into a cozy little restaurant and order wine and four different Italian dishes to delight in together.
We board the Staten Island ferry for our final destination.  The air is brisk coming off the water. Our nation’s symbol of peace is illuminated in the distance. As we make our way back to the island, I envision our ancestors arriving for the first time. On the dragon again our exhaustion reveals itself. As I drift in and out I notice the other passengers.  The man with an odd green stamp on his hand glares at me from behind a pole. A group of deaf girls sign to each other and laugh. We disembark and head down to Harlem for the last night’s rest before the trip home. As I close my eyes, I soak up the moments that have now become My New York City.