This Changes Everything

What knowledge do you want to impart to your child while you’re able?

Over the holidays, when I had some downtime, I streamed a lot of content. I just needed to veg. I came across the documentary film This Changes Everything — it looked interesting but I kept putting off watching it. The Netflix overview said the documentary takes a deep look at gender disparity in Hollywood through the eyes of well-known actresses and female filmmakers. I think I wasn’t in the mood to hear how women are ‘sold short,’ i already knew that, I just wanted to watch content that either made me laugh, or didn’t make me think.

Come the recent long weekend, I was trying to find something to watch once again. I was up for watching content that would make me think so I selected the movie. It was so eye-opening and explained a woman’s plight in what we have to overcome in a tangible way (how we’re perceived, why we’re perceived the way we are, and what to do about it). I left thinking as the only female in my household I needed to get my ‘boys’ to watch this. Because whether they knew it or not, the content they’ve taken in over the course of their lives has influenced their views of girls/females and beyond. I needed them to be aware, empathize, and hopefully be an advocate for equality.

I selected the movie when it was my turn to pick for our Saturday night gathering. We watched the movie. Afterwards we talked about what they learned, what surprised them, and how (of if) it changed their view of women. The boys thought they already knew women were underrepresented but we’re surprised by the numbers. They agreed women were shown more as objects in movie (particularly older ones), and even pointed to some parts in other movies where the female character was only shown for male viewers benefit (it literally made my youngest flinch when he recalled some of the scenes).

We pivoted to how these projections of what and how women behave and what they want from a partner can be confusing to both the man and the woman in relationships based on images we see everywhere (on screen, TV, internet, etc.), and how with my knowledge of the female’s mindset could help them be a good partner— be aware of where a women may come from regarding intimacy, what they might be comfortable/uncomfortable with, why that is, and more. Again, not the easiest conversation but at least both boys were willing to hear me out (getting the oldest to listen a WIN!).

I’m hopeful the information sank it, and my boys feel more informed. I’m optimistic they can avoid the pitfalls of making assumptions about what others expect of you (in relationships and intimacy) that their father and I experienced. Will this movie and discussion change everything for their experiences in this area? I don’t know, but ever bit of knowledge helps. Continuing these conversations will be essential.

What are key messages or values you are working to impart to your child or teen?

Let’s Talk About Sex

Ick. Gross. Pass.

That’s how I would have responded if my parents had wanted to talk to me about sex beyond “the talk” which was more focused on the mechanics. After that talk, which felt more like a trauma, I couldn’t look at either of my parents for weeks without getting grossed out.

My husband and I knew we’d have to better communicate with our kids about sex, intimacy, love, and all that goes with it. Knowledge is power, but it can feel oh so uncomfortable to try to talk about sex with your kids.

Thankfully there are lots of good books and classes for parents on this topic, and culturally it’s more accepted (and encouraged) to talk more openly about sex with our kids. My husband and I would have to work through whatever discomfort we have.

Our oldest continues not to want to talk to my husband and I about much of anything. We have to demand he sit with us at the dinner table and tell us at least one thing that happened that day. It’s pulling teeth. Our youngest is more talkative and willing to engage. What pleasantly surprised my husband and I was when our youngest shared that he was learning about sex in his health class. I wasn’t aware they taught sex in high school, but I’m grateful. The class goes beyond body parts and mechanics, but educates the students on STDs, prevention/protection, terms, consent, and more. As my son was learning, he had questions. He wanted to ask his questions in a safe place so he asked his father and I at home.

He was interested in what certain terms meant, our experience with sex (how hold were we (generally), were we scared, etc.), and more. There was a discomfort I felt at first talking to my son about some of his questions but quickly relaxed as I could see what I was sharing with him was helping him. We talked about why girls (or boys) have sex — they want to, they think they have to (it’s expected, or the other person won’t like them), they feel pressured (their peers are doing it and therefore they should to), or they are curious (what it feels like, etc.). We talked about terms. We talked about where he was with his own curiosity/interest. He made me feel better. I hopeful he’s more equipped to make informed decisions about his body and help any future partners feel good about their choice and experience with him. Now, we’re trying to figure out how to share the same information with our resistant older son. Pulling teeth, but we’ll do whatever it takes to have this (getting less uncomfortable) conversation.

What helps you when you have to have an uncomfortable talk with your child/teen?

Learner’s Permit

Our youngest has gotten his learner’s permit and is starting classes and practices driving (with my husband and I first, and the driving instructor later on). The first drive he was understandably nervous.

First lessons with our boys started the same way — in a relatively empty parking lot, and alternate with a nearby community college that has even more empty space when school is out. We get them in the drivers seat, talk about the seat belt, seat and mirror positions, the controls (park, drive, reverse), and foot position — drive with one foot going between the gas, brake and emergency brake, before we start any driving.

The first lesson, with my youngest, was at the nearby community college. We had gone through the basics and he was ready to start his drive. He let his foot gently off the brake and we started to move forward. He drove in a straight line and I asked him to stop as we neared where he’d need to start a turn. I showed him how to turn the wheel and he did well. We continued to drive slowly around the parking lot. Early lessons are normally short (15-20 minutes in length) — for both our son’s sanity (his nerves are high), and my husband’s and mine (our nerves are pretty high too, though we try to mask them and appear we’re cool and collected). My son started to drive again, this time applying a little more pressure to the gas pedal. We were going relatively slow but when he came around the corner he over corrected and was driving towards the curb where some trees were. When I saw him start to panic, in my mind I said, “brake, brake, brake!”, but after he came to a stop up on the curb (but thankfully not in the trees) he said I said, “whoa, whoa, whoa!” 😬 My words added to his panic (clearly not my intention). Thankfully no damage was done, we and the car were fine. We concluded the lesson following.

On the drive back home we talked about the drive — what my son felt good about and what he needs to work on (based on what we practiced). My son gave me some good pointers in how I can better help him in the future. “Mom, my brain works differently. Hand gestures put my brain on overload. You telling me what I need to do is more helpful.” I love how clear my kid-on-the-spectrum is. It never occurred to me how teaching him to drive would be different from my older son. While driving on the curb scared us both, his ability to give me feedback to better help him made me feel more confident to help him succeed. Another time as the parent I’ve also become the student. While I have my drivers license I only have my learner’s permit in teaching my son. I need his feedback, regardless the situation, to be a better driving instructor, better supporter, better advocate, and better parent.

What are learning from your child? How is your child helping you be better?

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

What value do you offer the world?

A bold question and one many of us would probably answer meagerly. I’m not sure many of us think in terms of the value we offer to others, let alone the world.

We were invited to ring in the New Year (east coast New Year’s because none of us can stay up that late 😂) with a group of parents we’ve known since our kids were born. Two of the families teen/tween children joined us. Our kids didn’t, but wish they had.

It was fun getting the kids to talk and share with us — what gifts they got, how school was going, driving, and what colleges they were thinking about (for the older ones). The kids have typically opted out of getting together when we gather, because, well, they’re kids, and at their age it often feels like they’d rather do anything else than hang out with us (their annoying, boring, basic parents). I get it.

We moved on to have dinner and again, the kids surprised me by being willing to eat with the adults and not off at their own separate table. Great conversation continued. We talked about weather, school, the news (we had a great discussion on drugs and the dangers and the kids were educating us!), and then one parent asked for each person to share a highlight from 2022, and something they’re looking forward to in 2023.

The kids really engaged and talked about their highlights – making new friends, adjusting to a new school; and things they were looking forward to – trips/family vacations, and the Taylor Swift concert (how did they ever get tickets?). 😊

We moved on to other areas of interest and gaming and online play came up. As a parent gaming can sometimes feel like a blessing (something fun that occupies their time), and a curse (will they ever stop playing that games?). We (the parents) wanted to hear firsthand from the kids their take on this — what games they play, what’s good about gaming, what isn’t, etc. One of the older boys (16) shared how he’d gotten into monetizing gaming. His parents seemed surprised so we all had questions — what was he doing, how did it work, how was he getting new business, etc.. He shared his interest in designing and figured out how to make gaming skins and logos for different players. He was doing this work at a low cost with no actual money being traded (other players would pay him by putting money into a game (for extended time, lives, tools/weapons/ etc.) so there was value), but nothing that would ever show up in his bank account.

I saw how he downplayed his work, that it was ‘just a hobby’ and thought he wasn’t that good. I had questions — how many people had he done work for? Approximately 100 was his answer. Was he getting repeat customers? He was. His work clearly had value, and while his community was small, he was doing good work. I shared this with him and shared with him that I thought he might be minimizing the good work he was doing. I could see I made him uncomfortable but assured him that feeling this way by what I’d just said was normal. “We aren’t often told we offer things of value. We think ‘why would anyone want this?’ Or ‘there’s many others out there much better than I am at this.’” And while there might be others out there that are more experienced it doesn’t take away from what you have to offer. I finished by saying, “Being humble is a good trait, but don’t do it to your detriment. Don’t sell yourself short. Even as adults we do this. Whether it’s creating gaming skins and logos for your friends online, or anything else that helps, provides, or supports others has value. I wish someone had told me this when I was younger.” The table was quiet. He gave a nod of acknowledgement. Other parents chimed in supporting him and his efforts, and then we moved onto other things.

In life we too often sell ourselves short. We aren’t anything special, right? Others are better at, smarter than, or more experienced than us, right? Wrong. Others miss out on what value we bring when we minimize our gifts — which can come in the form of knowledge, emotional support, finances, creativity, and beyond.

What value do you bring to the world? How are you helping your child not to sell themselves short?