The Difference Between Me and You

Dear Imagined, Supposed American Majority,

Just so we are clear. You do NOT speak for me. You do NOT represent me.

You do NOT represent me Mr. Trump, with your bombastic soundbites and your mob mentality. You do NOT represent me Ms. Davis, with your misguided crusade against something which has NO bearing upon your ability to freely practice your religion. You do NOT represent me Fox News, with your contortionist’s view of history. You do NOT represent me GOP, with your misguided war on my body and your continued attacks upon any fellow American who does not fit into your plastic mold.

YOU do NOT represent ME.

The difference between ME and YOU is this: I am not telling anyone else how they can or cannot, should or should not live their lives.

My way of life does not suppose or demand someone else be denied rights or guaranteed civil liberties based on the color of their skin, who they have sex with, or what clothes they wear.

The difference between ME and YOU is this: I want you to be able to live a life of your choosing, a life less ordinary, a life in which you are free to make choices. I may not agree with your choices, but they are YOURS to make.

The difference between ME and YOU is this: I care more about our children getting shot than I do about someone else’s right to carry a gun. I am more outraged by the way we continue to turn our back on gun control than I am about a lion being killed or the fact that Target has chosen to stop labeling toys with arbitrarily assigned meanings.

The difference between ME and YOU is this: I believe a woman’s body is hers and hers alone. Not YOURS. Not the government’s. And certainly not some overweight man who has never had to make the personal and private choice of a woman.

The difference between ME and YOU is this: my beliefs do not infringe upon yours. My beliefs do not preclude you from doing anything which is legal and protected under the law. Your beliefs, which are not MINE, would prohibit me or those I love from doing just those things.

The difference between ME and YOU is this: YOUR perception of religious freedom actually impinges upon MY rights as an American Citizen.

The difference between ME and YOU is this: I do not subscribe to the notion that a belief in God makes one better than anyone else.

The difference between ME and YOU is this: I believe there are many things about the United States which are broken. Wanting to fix those things does not make me any less patriotic.

The difference between ME and YOU is this: I don’t believe waving a flag and out-shouting makes you any more of a patriot than the receptionist who quietly files papers at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The difference between ME and YOU is this: my beliefs are working toward inclusion, while yours are working toward exclusion.

The difference between ME and YOU is this: I do not believe worshipping a specific God trumps all else.

The difference between ME and YOU is this: I don’t think the needs of a corporation should come before those of a population.

The difference between ME and YOU is this: I understand freedom does not mean taking rights away from those who are different from you are, or different from how you think they should be.

The difference between ME and YOU is this: I understand your way of life is not under threat. Your liberties are not at stake. Your freedoms are not in jeopardy. Yet those are the very things you want to take from others.

Just so we’re clear.

You don’t speak for ME.

Regards,

ME

 

Teaching My Kids To Fish

…give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish
and you feed him for a lifetime.**

Picture No. 10172009Sometimes in the dead dark of night I worry. I worry about a lot of the same things most mothers worry about. Whether I’ve peeled enough carrot sticks for lunch. Whether I’ve remembered to sign the field trip permission form. Whether I’ve forgotten some major life event my kids will be traumatized by me not remembering. But mostly I worry I’m not doing a good enough job of teaching my kids how to fish.

Forget fishing. Sometimes I worry they couldn’t even order take-out sushi.

Like most, I started out with the best intentions…and like many, I usually fall into less than ideal habits along the way. My kids have chores and responsibilities, not to earn money, but because I believe they should contribute to the upkeep of their home. I expect them to do their part to ensure our place of residence does not resemble a hovel. Or something out of an episode of Lego hoarders.

But then….

It’s the middle of the afternoon and the dishwasher needs to be emptied…so I empty it. There are teetering towers of boy boxer briefs threatening to suffocate us all…so I put them away. It’s late after football training and they need to do homework…so I clear the table. They look weary under the weight of their backpacks…so I carry them on my bike.

It’s easier if I do it, quicker if I just do it, they’ll do it wrong and I’ll need to redo it so why not just do it right myself the first time?

I’m doing myself a disservice of course. They are more than capable of doing the things I ask, of them. More than that however, I’m doing them a disservice. Because by doing it all for them, I’m not teaching them how to fish.

It took me a long time and a lot of muttering to realize I don’t need to play Mama Punkawallah to my kid’s Lazy Lordships. It took me a long time to realize my kids aren’t going to sue me for motherhood fraud if I don’t get them every glass of water they ask for or acquiesce to every play date, if I make them clear the plates or sweep the floor or assume responsibility for themselves, their things, and their lives.

And that’s when the idea of teaching them to fish really became a bit of an obsession.

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It’s possible I’m slightly more gung-ho because I’m raising boys and I want them to be well-rounded (and my definition of well-rounded includes knowing the working end of a mop and how to do a load of darks.)

More than simple household chores however, I want my kids to be able to do things. By themselves. Without me. I realize I’m outing myself as a quasi-free range mother, but I want my kids to go places and do things and make choices and decisions and have experiences. Without me. Without me advising or rescuing or informing or being on the other end of a text or packing a sandwich and a baggie full of Goldfish in case they get hungry.

I want the little buggers to feel confident enough to fish for themselves. To go out and catch their dinners. To cook them up and clear up the plates afterward and go to bed with a full stomach.

That kind of personal responsibility, the kind that leads to being able to take care of yourself?  It  starts at home. Making beds and clearing plates seem like minor things, but a kid who knows how to clean up after himself will eventually carry those lessons through into his adolescence and adulthood. Cleaning up your messes becomes a dirtier job as you get older. It’s one thing to pick up the Lego off the toy room floor, it’s another to pick up the pieces of a heart you’ve broken. But in the end, they are all part and parcel of the same lesson.

Learning how to speak up for yourself, taking responsibility for your belongings, not just the physical ones but the mental ones too, looking after yourself, physically and emotionally, all of those are fishing lessons. They are the stepping-stones between dependence and independence.

1950s-boy-plaid-shirt-sailor-hat-fishing-pole-dog-pulling-on-tail-of-caught-fishTeaching my kids to fish means giving them the skills they need to make toast without burning it, but it also means giving them the tools to be independent. To go forth. To ask, to question, to stand up, and yes, to fall down and screw up as well. To navigate their own lives without my constant intervention. Without me to always carry their burdens and fight their fights and clean up their messes.

They’re still young. I’m not going to push them out into deep waters and leave them to fend for themselves. I’ll be waiting behind the counter at Mom’s Live Bait ready to offer tips, to help untangle their lines, give them advice on lures. But as young as they are, the more I step back, the more I notice how capable they are, even at untangling the tough knots.

Eventually, if I do my job, they’ll be able to fashion their own custom rods. My hope is that one day, sitting out on the dock of their own bay, they will be able to confidently cast their rods, sure that they can handle whatever it is they reel in.

I hope I’ll have done enough to teach them how to fish. And at the very least, to order sushi without my help.

**I’d always assumed the fishing proverb had a Biblical source, but it turns out I was
wrong. Most sources cite Anne Isabella Ritchie, daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray as the original mid-20th century source. 

What The Hell Were We Thinking?? (And Other Questions You Ask Yourself as an Expat)

Oh. Shit.
Oh. Shit.

We are barely two weeks into the school year and I’ve already met a new crop of expat families. Some have done this crazy tango before, others are new to the dance floor. Regardless, I’ve been absolutely floored by the speed at which some have managed to settle themselves. Three weeks in a new country and they’ve got the kids in swimming lessons, the internet running and a 1:00 slot at the tennis club blocked off. It’s impressive. After three weeks in Cyprus my husband was still coming home from work to find me banging my head against the countertops. In fact, I’m pretty sure he used to come home at lunch just to make sure I hadn’t stuck my head in the oven. He’s never said so, but I think he was relieved our oven was electric, not gas.

Now, as we near completion of our seventh year overseas, it’s hard to remember all the details of those hellish early days. But I remember all the questions I asked myself that first year in Cyprus. Many of them carried over into our first year in Denmark. Hell, some of them I still ask myself from time to time. Because no matter if this is your first gig overseas or your eighth, moving abroad raises questions. Many of them ricochet loudly around in your head.

You’re not alone. I promise.

What the hell have we done?

The big Kahuna question may haunt you for a while. The inquiry which fuels your nightmares… and your anxieties. While visions of burgers and Target dance in your head, you fret you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life. What were you thinking? What made you think you could pack up a house and the kids and a dog and move across the ocean? Were you smoking crack when your spouse brought it up? Under the influence of a cult leader? Drunk on the Kool-aid? What on Earth were you thinking??

Have we well and truly screwed the kids?

The running joke in our house is this: either our kids are going to thank us for the amazing experience we’ve been able to give them….or they are going to bill us for the therapy hours they endure to make up for their rootlessness. Exposure to multiculturalism vs. lifelong friends. Language acquisition vs. high school sports teams. Travel opportunities vs. worrying your girlfriend’s posting is up in six months. It’s a coin toss I don’t know the answer to. None of us do.

No. There are NO BLACK BEANS. And it's your fault!
No. There are NO BLACK BEANS. And it’s your fault!

This is all your fault. Do you think we’d even be here if it weren’t for your stupid job?

Find me a trailing spouse who hasn’t had this thought at least once in their life abroad and I’ll gladly turn over my stash of Goya black beans. When the going gets rough, the rest of us blame our spouse. It’s their job, their career, their opportunities, we are mere pawns in their international chess game. If it weren’t for them and their stupid job you’d be pushing your giant, red trolley down the aisles of Target, shopping at M&S Food, enjoying 70 degree winter days. Most of the time the blame game is unfounded. That doesn’t stop you from thinking it now and then.

Are the people in your office effing crazy?

The office (in my head it’s always like Wolfram and Hart from the television show Angel) wants the working partner to move or travel at the most inopportune times, like say…the middle of the school year, right before your son’s senior year in high school, during exams, the day after you and the kids touch down in a new posting…

Why is so hard to find a decent burger in this place?

You can be as optimistic and cheerful as Pollyanna. You can be as unsinkable as Molly Brown. You can always look on the bright side of the life, yet I can pretty much guarantee there will still  be something that you miss, something that you long for, something that seems so simple and yet is so difficult to obtain. How hard is it to…

Why are the locals so loco?

Why are the Danes so hung up on rules? Why are the Americans so loud? Why are the Cypriots so confrontational? Why are the Brits so obsessed with Brussels Sprouts? Wherever you’ve landed, there are going to be things that befuddle and confuse you. Things you just can’t understand. And like a toddler asking Why? Why? WHY??? you will ask yourself over and over in an attempt to understand. Let me know if you figure it out.

Oh, my God! Would it kill them to say thank you?

Sometimes it’s hard to understand why someone wouldn’t think to hold the door for you. Or smile at you. Or thank you or move out of the way when you’re walking down the sidewalk or my personal  bugbear, let someone with one or two items go ahead of you in the checkout line. We are all guilty from time to time of wanting our host culture to act with the social norms we are used to, even if they’re not the norms where we’ve landed.

See? It's not hard!
See? It’s not hard!

Why is the pizza so much better at home?

Sometimes we put such a positive spin on things we make ourselves dizzy. But it’s ok to admit you miss home. It’s ok to miss certain things or people or simply the comfort of knowing where you stand. It’s ok to miss the food or the weather or the way the supermarkets are set up. It’s ok to miss the choice or the price tags or family and friends. As much as I joke about Goya products, my beloved black beans are merely a metaphor for the things I miss, big and small. It’s ok to miss home, but if you let the missing define you, you’re in for a tough ride.

So if you’re new to the dance floor and find yourself with a headful of questions, don’t fret. I’ve done a few turns around the floor under the expat strobe lights and I still ask them from time to time. Especially when I’m in the mood for black beans.

 

 

 

Oh, Boy!

d-corson-1950s-2-juvenile-boys-in-cowboy-hat-and-shirts-playing-ukulele-and-singing-mouth-open-wide20 Surprising Things About Having Boys

1. You will know and respect the difference between a backhoe and a front loader. 

2. You will start to think “Mom” tattoos aren’t so bad after all.

3. You will compare them to animals as in, “I need to take them outside and run them like dogs.”

4. You will trade tips about the best way to get the cat-piss smell out of of football (soccer) boots.

5. You will spend more on Lego then you ever thought possible.

6. You will have a weapons receptacle.

7. At least once you will have to explain why your son got his testicles out in public.

8. You will jealously watch your friends of girls chat over lattes while their daughters quietly color and sew and make rainbow loom bracelets.boy

9. You will secretly laugh when those formerly quiet girls turn into moody adolescents and your teen boy is happy with some Axe aerosol and the key to the pantry.

10. You will fret about their genitalia.

11. You’ll start to actually care about the Star Wars universe.

12. You will learn 99 words for testicles, and nuts ain’t one.

13. You will dust around collections of bottle caps, rocks and elastic bands.

14. You will be answered in burps.

15. You will watch him make a gun out of a sandwich.

16. You will utter a phrase like “I don’t think your penis is supposed to do that.”

17. You’ll be surprised at how quickly his feet outgrow yours.

article-0-19151548000005DC-498_468x36718. You will learn that everything is a competition.

19. It’s not fun until someone gets hurt.

20. Every time you hear “a son is only a son until he takes a wife” your heart breaks just a little bit.