I feel very close to W's kids, and that I value the time that I get to spend with them. Sometimes we cook together, other times, we cuddle on the couch and watch a movie. I help with homework, and take them to the pottery place to make gifts for family.
It's the same with my son. I work very hard to show him love and respect. I listen when he talks to me, I take the time to do fun things with him. We laugh together, watch television shows that have lessons. We read, each of us taking turns reading a page, back and forth. I talk to him about everything that I can, about the things that happen in life, or might happen, and what they mean to us personally. I am far from perfect, and I tell him that. I explain that being human means making mistakes, screwing up, and not knowing it all. It's all okay, as long as we keep trying to better ourselves.
A couple of weeks ago, W was teaching the kids how to use a fire extinguisher, and they each took turns putting out fires with it (he lit the fires safely in the chiminea). As I watched, my heart grew. To say that it was magical to watch W teach the kids how to put out fires, and to teach them that lesson, would minimize it. Even to say that watching the kids learn a life lesson, all together, with W at the helm, wouldn't do it justice. It was one of those things that when you see it, you feel it, and you know that it's a family moment that will carve a giant, permanent notch in your heart. It's these moments that make us tight knit, and that make memories that get banked and built upon.
Time with the kids is always time well spent. You have to know that. We all have our kids for a handful of years to teach them our morals, what matters to us, and to be a positive influence in their lives. Before you know it, they are off with their friends, and those friends become the primary influence. If we've done well, our kids will be able to sort through the things that they are presented with (when we are not around), and hopefully use their good judgement to decide what's right for them.
Freshman student Jamey Rodemeyer killed himself, at age 14, this past Saturday. He had been bullied, tormented, for years in school and online. Bullying is a problem that seems to be getting worse, not better. As parents, if we keep an open and trusting dialogue with our kids, and allow them to speak honestly about what they are feeling and doing, we have a much better chance of protecting them, advocating for them, and helping them find solutions. Our kids might tell us things that we don't want to hear (and that can be hard), but it's our job to listen, process what they are saying, and help to steer them in the right direction. Mostly, it's crucial that our kids know by both words and example that they are loved, all the time, regardless of the path that they choose in life.
Rodemeyer made a video talking about his experience with coming out of the closet, for the "It Gets Better" project. He said how he'd been bullied and called names like "fag" in the halls of his school and online; watching it made me cry. When he made the video, he was in a good place. He made it just months ago. Knowing that he killed himself due to the endless tormenting that he received from his peers is simply horrifying. How could this have been avoided? I don't have the answer, but I do know that if the bullying had been stopped, it's more likely that Rodemeyer might have chosen to live. In the video, he seems relieved and hopeful. You can watch the sweet two-minute video by clicking here.
I showed the video to my son. I explained what it meant and why the boy made it. I also explained how he was bullied and that the torment of being bullied caused Rodemeyer to kill himself. Verbal abuse is abuse, nonetheless, and can be as bad (if not worse) as physical abuse. I wanted my son to see it, both to know that bullying is not an acceptable option, and to also know that if he ever felt that he was being bullied, that he had to speak up.
|Stop the hate.|
Talk to your children. Talk to them about everything. About school, friends, girls/boys, feelings, drugs, sex, smoking. No topic (that they bring to you) should be off limits. Keep it at an age appropriate level, and allow them to ask any questions they may have. You may find that they have questions that are uncomfortable for you to answer. Answer them anyway, and leave space for your kids to ask more questions. It's a gift to have them come to you.
Make a pledge to stop bullying, and to live with respect. Do it with your kids. You can visit the Stop Bullying Speak Up facebook page to get started, or visit www.stopbullyingspeakup.com. My son and I made the pledge written below. Please write your own pledge and have your kids write theirs.
"I pledge to be a good role model, and to treat people how I wish to be treated. I pledge to speak up when someone is being bullied or when I am being bullied. I pledge to be respectful and kind." TP & JH
Watch this empowering video with your kids. It's beautiful and powerful.
Please repost this blog. Spread the word. Stop the hate.