50 shades of don’t bother – why I don’t like the books and why I won’t see the movie

Fact: I do not remember a time when I didn’t love to read. I like a wide variety of books and I’ll often ask others for recommendations on what to read. Someone told me “if you liked the Twilight books, you will like 50 Shades”. I wish I could remember who said that so they could get a well-earned thump on the noggin.

Fact: I am not a book critic nor am I very literary. My favorite author is Danielle Steele and I just admitted to liking Twilight. Team Edward all the way, baby, in case you wondered.
The hype surrounding the initial release of the book has died down but as the release of the movie gets closer there is more chatter about 50 Shades and the perpetually insatiable dysfunctional guy with mommy issues that we all know and love as Christian Grey.

I’ll give my thoughts on this work of “Fan Fiction” and yes, girls, it is Twilight Fan Fiction. Let me recap just in case anyone has been living under a rock and doesn’t know what I’m talking about:
50 Shades was written by E.L. James, who didn’t think the Twilight series had enough sex. I find it creepy that someone read a book about high school students (granted, one had been 17 for a really long time) and thought there needed to be more sex, but there you have it.

There are 3 books in this painful (pun intended) series. Set in Seattle, the protagonist is Anastasia Steele who closely resembles Isabella Swan: plain, awkward, clumsy, neurotic, has a childlike mother who isn’t quite treated as an adult and close to her dark skinned platonic male friend Jacob Jose. Sounding familiar?

Our heroine meets smokin’ hot, emotionally distant Christian Grey in a situation that is so totally out there I can’t even be bothered to comment on it. He is inexplicably drawn to her but pushes her away at the same time. He doesn’t like to be touched and is a textbook commitmentphobe with what anyone who can pronounce the word “Sye-coll-oh-gee” can recognize as abandonment issues.

Disclaimer Time: I didn’t finish the series. I read the first 2 books and somewhere during the first chapter of the third book, I asked myself “why the hell am I reading this crap” and clicked exit.
Once Edward decided that he had to have Bella (oops), he presented her with a detailed contract that specified how she’d be his on-call sex toy for shenanigans mostly taking place in his “red room of pain”. Totally not legally binding (anyone who ever watched JAG or LA Law should be able to figure this out) but who cares about details when you are sucked in to detailed descriptions about Christian’s unruly copper colored hair (again, sound familiar?) Bella Anastasia hemmed, hawed and fretted over that contract like it was the Magna Carta. To say Christian Grey likes a side order of freaky is like saying Matthew McConaughey is pleasant looking.

Despite the fact that Edward Christian wants a regular romp devoid of emotion, these two predictably fall in love and get married. Shocking. Although his desire to control her every move freaks Anastasia out (as most things do) their weird courtship moves at lightning speed. They were on their honeymoon when I decided I’d had enough. I am assuming they lived happily (and freakily) ever after but if there was some kind of plot twist, I’m in blissful ignorance.

Why I don’t like this book:
1. Double Standard: This book is labeled “mommy porn”. The minivan driving forty-something rocking the high waisted capris and white Keds is reading a detailed account of BDSM sex while sipping her latte at soccer practice. And that’s okay because “mommy porn” sounds harmless? We chuckle over the idea that our fictional soccer mom is reading erotica but turn the tables. If a forty something year old dude rocking carpenter jeans and a comb over was reading “daddy porn” in the same situation, we’d be giving him the stank eye and getting our kids the hell out of there. Am I right?
Does calling it “mommy porn” make it less pornographic? Is it more socially acceptable for women to admit to enjoying porn if they have their own, more benign sounding category? What’s the difference?

2. It’s not a healthy book for young women: I have seen so many posts and tweets about “how I long to find a man like Christian Grey” and “my boyfriends’ great, but he’s no Christian Grey”. Why is this desirable? Why are we romanticizing fetishes and control? Christian uses coercion and threats to make Bella Anastasia do his bidding. He chooses her clothes and monitors her social schedule. While Anastasia lamely expresses the level of control “freaks her out”, she happily lets him buy her all kinds of expensive crap. She finds it both exciting and distressing when he whispers threats about “really making it hurt” when she dares to do something against the almighty Christian Grey’s wishes.

3. The book is poorly written. I am not the grammar police. I am probably not even that great of a writer, but there is something decidedly un-sexy about a sex scene that reads as if it were written by a seventh grader.

The author is from England. The books are set in Washington. I am not sure how her British-isms didn’t get tossed out in the editing, but there are some snippets I doubt that I’d understand if I didn’t have the advantage of hearing people speak British English daily. And there is way (way, way, way) too liberal use of the word “jeez”. Jeez.

I can overlook a few run-on sentences but the author is definitely rocking some poor writing. I find little about this book that is in the ballpark of realistic. The frequency at which sex occurs in this book is a joke. 5+ times a day, every single day? I’m just not stepping in what you’re throwing down, E.L. Picture bunnies on Viagra. And maybe some blue meth. I think your guy parts would fall off if you do it that much. But that’s just me…if it’s normal to do it that much, please no one tell my husband.

In all seriousness, the fact that young women find this lack of autonomy desirable is discouraging. I totally get the draw of having a guy buy you presents when you fret about things not going your way. Having an oh-so-discreet live in maid to wash your unmentionables and cook you breakfast after a night of debauchery? Well, who wouldn’t like that? But finding lack of control over your decision making sexy, just because the guy is hot and rich? I find that sad.

Do we want our daughters to read this kind of stuff and idealize this excuse for a relationship? Do we want to raise strong, independent women who control their own future or sniveling sea sponges who fear making a decision without the stamp of approval of a clown who poofed out of nowhere and declared himself her “master”? Blech!

My personal thoughts – and yes, I know my mom and daughter read my blog. Mom, Sissy, you might want to skip this part. I feel it is wrong for me to get excited by porn (any porn, and yes, 50 Shades is porn) and then be intimate with my husband. It takes my focus off of where it should be during that moment (and it only should be on my husband). For us to do the stuff that married people do because I’m titillated by reading about some college student getting beat with a whip…well…I am just going to be the party pooper and say “that’s not cool”.

I know what’s right for me. It’s not my place to tell you you’re wrong if you see it differently. If you like a good dirty book, more power to you. But look elsewhere for a good dirty book because I don’t think this is one. My convictions aside, I think this book just sucks.

If getting lost in the tale of the BSDM antics of an insecure college girl and a control freak with deep seated mommy issues sounds like a good way to spend a couple of lazy afternoons (trust me, people, this is a fast & easy read), rock on.

If you are not so inclined, I’ve pretty much written down the plot, so you don’t have to trouble yourselves with reading it from scratch. You’re welcome.

Jill Robbins writes about post adoption life and random mom topics at Ripped Jeans and Bifocals. She enjoys running, dry wine and dry humor, and Lily Pulitzer (because it hides all the crap her kids spill). Her most recent accomplishment is learning to tweet. Her mother is very proud. Her next project is an anthology of adoption stories titled But They Are My Own – Tales from the Checkout Line, which you can read as soon as she snags a publisher. You can follow Jill on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday Favorites (August 25-29)


Mark Manson shares a wonderful look at love.

Is this what women want? Doyin Richards give his side.

An interesting look at aging gracefully

Brie Gowen explains why her homeschool kid is not a weirdo.

Jana talks about a Collector of People

Don’t forget to consider submitting for our #31days31voices celebration coming in October!

Ebb and Flow

I drove down the interstate and saw the morning sun’s rays streaming to the earth. They drew me into a warm hug, and the feeling of wholeness, the understanding that the intricate gears of life really are working for my higher good overwhelmed me.

It’s what I needed to remember; it’s exactly why I headed to ocean’s edge that morning.

Sometimes I want to smudge a few memories, erase parts or wholes of what have become the colorful canvas of my past even though I try to remember they have all lead me to this very place. But recently I was confronted with a sensitive and very important situation, and I was able to witness how important and integral all of those experiences are.

I approached the boardwalk, anxious for the healing way the waves have about them. The ebb and flow that mimics life, the methodic and expected dance that reveals the sand as ever changed from before the rush of water seemed to have drowned it. My run that day was slow and easy at first and then speed work intervals: two minutes of sprinting, and one of recovery. Like the waves and the sand, the speed attempted to destroy me, to erode me, but in those recovery minutes, I resurfaced renewed and stronger. Maybe microscopically at first, maybe with strength that is yet to be seen in its fullness, but infinitely better for experiencing a painful edge.

I’ve observed before that life tends to come in these two to one intervals, in these waves of anxiousness and relief, in an ebb and flow of joy and despair. And in those recent moments of life’s joy and despair, in the intense speed work followed by easy running, so many things that have ever happened in my life all came rushing in on me in a powerful way. There wasn’t one particular memory or situation that contributed directly to this experience, but I could see so clearly how they have all worked synergistically to lead me here.

Within that gift of clarity, life has never felt so alive and incandescent. So perfectly informing me that I am on the right path and that if I’m open to it, life is a spiritual practice. Every run, every exhale, and every sharp inhale; the smiles and tears, the moments of disconnecting and connecting to those we love; a sip of a cold beer, the first scent of hot coffee in those bleary-eyed first morning moments is a prayer, a meditation. That within the crashing waves, in those moments of silent withdrawal into the great unknown, there is a fragment of awareness, a chance to bask in peace and wisdom.


The Doctor Is In, But I’m Out…(of my mind!)

photo 1-4All my adult life I have dealt with a debilitating disorder – – it’s called, “Tell & Show Syndrome.” Someone will TELL me about a new rare disease and WHAM! – – all the signs of it SHOW up throughout my body.

To say I am highly suggestible is an understatement. I can read an article in a woman’s magazine entitled, “10 Symptoms You’re Too Shy Too Discuss With Your Male Doctor (But You Should Before It’s Too Late!)” ~ Immediately I have all 10 plus 4 bonus ones the author wasn’t imaginative enough to think of. Fear and panic overtakes all my shyness. Gimme that doctor right this minute! I might even consider going to Second base with him for a Second opinion.

I do have a regular physician I call several times a week, and I’m sure the nurses give him messages that go like this – -

“That hypochondriac lady (who resembles a highly fatigued Amy Winehouse, minus the tattoos) is on the phone again. Today she claims when she walks, it feels like thumbtacks/paperclips are poking her feet. Should we advise her to proceed directly to the local office supply store?”

Instead I go to my beloved online medical information mecca – – “The Web MD.”

First of all, it never occurs to me that the word “Web” in their name is a subtle symbolic tip-off that I should stay far, far away. Let’s think about this, shall we? Who has webbed feet? Ducks! And what do ducks say? “QUACK!” Hello??

But this does not deter me from typing, “thumbtacks sticking feet” into the symptom-checker box and obtaining The Diagnosis From Hell. Four horrific diagnoses, actually. One relates to my Brain, one relates to my Heart, another to my Lungs, and the final one to my Stomach. Interestingly, none of the diseases have anything to do with Feet. And all are extremely fatal.

Having gotten C +’s in my Deductive Reasoning classes in high school, I know it isn’t possible that I am afflicted with ALL four of these maladies. That’s only logical, right? So which one should I eliminate?

Next I do what I always do at 2:00 in the morning – – I log onto a hospital patient message board and post about my situation, asking if someone “out there” has ever experienced a symptom like this but everything turned out to be completely fine? I stare for hours at my computer screen waiting for anyone to give a reassuring response. And then it dawns on me . . .

The reason nobody can answer my question. . .

Everyone who had this same problem has ALREADY died.

Should I start writing my Obituary or my Will first? And Guardians for my precious kids! Why, oh why couldn’t my ex-husband and I ever agree who to name as caretakers in the event of our deaths?? His sister puts ketchup on eggs, doesn’t believe in orthodontia, plus Danielle Steele is her favorite author. So what? I shoulda let all that go.

“Please God,” I bargain, “I know last week I hated this world and said I’d rather be dead than go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew my expired driver’s license. But I promise to find gratitude and renew my zest for life – – just please don’t let me expire!”

There’s nothing left to do. Except find a brand new doctor who hasn’t heard about my “Boy Who Cried Wolf” past. My previous doctors have issued, “WARNING: Circus Side Show Freak” bulletins about me to the medical community at large, so this will be no easy task.

Finally I show up on the doorstep of an office in a faraway town. I watch as their “The Doctor is in” sign lights up. I’ve always believed first impressions are important so here is how I fill out the paperwork on the clipboard.

New Patient Form:

NAME: (circle one) Miss/Mrs./Ms I’m divorced so technically it’s “Ms.” But please call me “Miss” as in “Little Miss Menopause.” Although Mr. may be a distinct possibility these days – – can you check my testosterone level?

AGE: I just caught a glimpse of you at the reception desk….I could be your mother big sister.

REASON FOR TODAY’S VISIT? Look at me! Isn’t it obvious? I just need the Dr. to confirm how much time I have.

WEIGHT: Who cares at this point? Just order me a size 8 burial gown. And yes, I’m banking on the fact that loss of appetite will kick in soon with this particular disease.

PROFESSION: Writer (Pssssst! Hot tip: Publish this New Patient form. Everyone knows a deceased author’s last work commands a high price.)

EVER SKIPPED A PERIOD? Yes, but I’m working diligently on eliminating my run-on sentences.


PERSON TO CALL IN EMERGENCY: Um…my two ex-husbands will deny knowing me. Let’s see….My kids will just ask, “what’s for dinner?” Oh, don’t call the neighbors, they’ll think I have another lizard in my dining room. Hmmm, I think you might call Mabel, my hairdresser. But when you say, “Died” – – you better spell it. She’ll think you mean Clairol Nice n’ Easy Deep Burgundy Brown.

I’m interrupted by the Doctor, who calls me in. He listens to my heart and pronounces it steady and strong. I resist the urge to ask when he’s last had his stethoscope calibrated. I describe how I feel (this time likening it to feet stabbed with steak knives) but he cuts me off before I can get to the Web MD part.

DR: Have you ever heard of Transient Paresthesia?

ME: Oh no, Dr. Not that! I don’t even ride a train or bus!

DR: Not “Transit.” Transient, meaning Short-Lived.

ME: Good Lord, you mean I’m gonna go even quicker than I thought?

DR: Where ya headed to?

ME: Aren’t I dying?

DR: We all are. But I think you’re gonna survive this one. Transient Paresthesia = Limbs falling asleep.

As I depart, I glance over my shoulder to see him sketching a big-haired woman with the caption, “BEWARE OF CREATIVE BLOGGER WITH TOO MUCH TIME ON HER HANDS….She needs to be cut off ASAP!!” He then posts it on the WEB MD website!

Stephanie Lewis (aka, Little Miss Menopause) has a humor blog called “Once Upon Your Prime”  where she writes about marriage, motherhood, menopause & madness, (emphasis on the madness!) Her women’s fiction novel, “Lullabies & Alibis” has found a comfortable niche with women who have always yearned to have a daughter. She also writes an ongoing humor column for North County Woman Magazine in San Diego, CA. called, “Razzle, Dazzle & Frazzle!”

Friday Favorites (August 18-22)


Our former contributor, Cristie, shares a great post: Let’s Talk About White Privilege

Ask Your Dad Blog tells us about 5 Pieces of Parenting Advice he is Tired of Hearing

Check out Elaine and her post I’m Such a Good Mom

A thought-provoking post: These Are The Days

Any post with this line is a winner: That’s what marriage is: a blurring of devotion and cold blooded, premeditated murder.

Getting to Mexico – Part One

KH07aBrad and I have always been independent and adventurous. We love to travel, especially me… I want to see the world! When Brad was accepted for Social Security Disability Insurance in 2010 due to the effects of his brain injury, we started to wonder what would come next for our family. With SSDI you can reside in most countries and receive your benefits via direct deposit to a US bank account. We did our research and looked for Spanish-speaking countries where the cost of living is lower then in the US. We loved the Spanish language and culture after spending three years prior, 2006 through 2009, in a Spanish Bible congregation. But… here we were starting the year 2013, pregnant with our fourth child, owning a house and two cars plus lots of extras, with all our family close-by, in a Bible congregation we loved… the dream seemed impossible so we put it in a box and packed it away in the back of our minds.

Several months later we had a visitor at our Bible meetings for a week of special activity. During this visit we watched a new video at our Kingdom Hall. It featured couples that had moved to various countries to expand our Bible educational work. One couple had two children. Brad and I locked eyes. We were thinking the same thing. Money would not be a problem if the cost of living was lower and we could stick to a budget. Brad’s income was fixed. If this family could do it, why couldn’t we? Well, we had four children, not two, and there was also Brad’s health to consider. What if he had a problem and we needed our family? So we left the dream packed in it’s box but this time it stayed in the front of our minds.

We decided to put our home up for sale in July. The plan was to buy a larger house and be closer to our Bible congregation and away from the city schools. The following weekend we attended a three day district convention covering many Bible topics. There were several talks that caught our attention, stressing the need to live a simple life and put God first. We knew this would bring us more happiness as a family. Buying a bigger, more expensive house would not. Then Brad talked to a old friend that was visiting from Mexico. Bill was in his 80′s and loving it there. We also talked with a family living abroad in Nicaragua that were visiting for a few months. They have two small children themselves. It wasn’t easy to move away, especially with kids, but it was possible. We had been pondering this for a long time and praying for God’s direction. When we went back to our hotel, Brad told me, “Let’s do it. Let’s sell everything and go to Mexico with Bill.” We unpacked the dream that night and never looked back. So the adventure began. Signing off, Tina

*Read Getting to Mexio – Part Two!

Bio: Tina Ernspiker lives abroad in Mexico with her husband and four children. They are active in homeschooling, traveling, and their Bible ministry. Tina loves writing and photography, thus she blogs :-)

Visit Tina @ Los Gringos Locos

The words.

I read for the words. The characters and the setting. The story, too. Plot. Arc. Climax. Resolution.

But most of all, I read for the words. The way the are strung together. Or. Not.

The way they fill the pages in streams of beautiful letters all connected to illustrate a thought an idea a plan a plot, moving so fast I can’t get to the next line quickly enough.




they are





about, with space for thoughts

and pauses.


I read for the words, simple and sesquipedalian. For the way the letters imprint on my brain and leave my mind spinning with its own words, thoughts, ideas. I read to swallow up passages, like this one:

“[Friendship] is a relationship that has no formal shape, there are no rules or obligations or bonds as in marriage or the family, it is held together by neither law nor property nor blood, there is no glue in it but mutual liking. It is therefore rare.” –Wallace Stegner, from Crossing to Safety (1987)

. . . and then dwell on those passages, see where they take me. Maybe I examine my own friendships, or I think about how I might write about one, or as I jot down this passage and reread it I realize that it is what I want one of the central experiences of my life to be. And I realize that hasn’t happened. Not yet. So I keep reading, and I return to this idea, to these words, and I think about how writing has brought me friendships I wouldn’t otherwise have found.

“It is therefore rare.” I say it to myself again.

And these writing friends appreciate words in much the same way I do. They are reading friends, too. And we dwell and soak ourselves in the letters and shapes of the language on the page or in our minds, in our pens, in our fingers on the keys as we try to get our own stories down, hoping to one day reach others.

Others who enjoy words as much as we do.

Friday Favorites (August 11-15)


Raising boys? You need to read this.

Check out this amazing post on the Exit Interview

There has been much talk of depression and suicide this week after the sudden death of comedian Robin Williams. Glennon from Momastery shares a beautiful post from a different perspective.

This post on gender equality and feminism is a great read!

Why I am Thankful For a Loss

I came late to motherhood. In my twenties, I had no maternal urges, and couldn’t imagine ever wanting children. That changed when I met the man who would become my husband and father to our two daughters, and it changed even more when I met my first niece. I was in love with both! My husband took longer to come round to the idea of children, and then an illness left me with fertility problems. By the time I conceived for the first time, I was in my late thirties.

From the start, that pregnancy was difficult, with persistent bleeding and time in hospital. One gloomy November day, I lay on the sofa for hours, feeling so nauseous I could barely raise my head. The next day, the nausea has passed and the bleeding had stopped, but my anxiety did not. A few days later, a scan showed no heartbeat. I had had a missed-miscarriage, and needed an operation to remove the dead baby.

One of the characters in my first novel, Drawings In Sand, struggles to conceive, and becomes grateful for that struggle. She says, “I used to think people who were obsessed with trying to get pregnant were selfish, and instead of squandering money on fertility treatments our taxes would be better spent teaching them to accept their lot. In my calmer moments like today I realise it’s taught me compassion.”
Drawings in Sand isn’t autobiographical, at least not in its story line. However, the emotions that character felt were drawn from my own. My fertility problems were humbling. Like that character, I had judged people, and like her, I had become one of the people I’d judged. Now I knew the longing, the aching, the roller coaster of raised hopes dashed month after month.

After losing the baby, I sank into a depth of depression I had never known before. For weeks, it seemed as if there was a huge wall in front of me. My husband, a pilot, often worked the early morning shifts and I was usually in my pyjamas when he arrived home, if I had managed to get out of bed. I didn’t want face the day alone.

I plucked up courage to contact a miscarriage support group, and went for a meeting – except the address and date I’d been given were wrong. I wandered desolately up and down a dark street for half and hour, before heading home in tears.

Yet even in those dark days, something inside me knew I would rather be going through this than never have been pregnant. I knew it was changing me, and in a healing way. It wasn’t so much that I was selfish before, but I was probably more self-absorbed than was ideal for parenting. I did approach pregnancy assuming I would be kind to my children, yet I also had a feeling that could possibly be described as “entitlement.” I expected things to go how I planned. We had moved shortly before the miscarriage and I was unemployed at the time, but I assumed that I would get a job and that children would fit round that. While I firmly believe it is a mother’s right to work, back then for me it would not have been an informed choice but a reaction. I would have acted from unquestioned assumptions, not from considered awareness of what was best for all concerned.

That first pregnancy was distinctly different from my others in many ways. I knew that I was pregnant, long before any test. I felt a strong connection to the baby, as if I could sense her soul (I felt sure it was a girl.) I’ve often wondered if this was my imagination. I’ve also often wondered if it was because the baby was dying from the start. I can’t ever know, and that’s fine. Although I grew up in a church-going family, by then I had shunned all religion, along with the possibility of any God’s existence. While I was in hospital, a friend lent me Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. This book is part-novel, part-philosophy, and was my introduction to Buddhism. Gaarder described how Buddhists see God in everything. That made sense to me. I didn’t become a Buddhist, but I began to look at life with a more open mind.

Miscarriage was a turning point in my life. It was not the only turning point, but it was major one. One of the most profound lessons I learned was that even in the midst of suffering, there can be awareness of growth, and there can be gratitude. On a visit to my sister, my four-year-old niece found me crying, and asked why. I reassured her I was okay and explained I was just sad about something that had happened. Without speaking, she left the room. Minutes later, she returned, holding out a painting she’d done at nursery. That painting in long-since lost, but the memory of that small person’s small act of kindness will never be. A few weeks later, I went back to visit friends where we’d previously lived. One of my closest friends now had a three-month-old baby. She worried that seeing the baby might upset me, but in fact, it felt wonderful. My friend had had post-natal psychosis after the birth of her first baby and had to wait years to have a second, so all I felt holding her baby was joy and hope.

Miscarriage reignited my dormant spirituality, and began my journey back to exploring the mysteries of life, the unknown, (the unknowable perhaps.) It gave birth to an understanding that I neither have all answers in life, nor even all the questions, and that, more importantly, I don’t need them. It’s okay for life to unfold as it does, without my opinion. Of course, I still have opinions, but mostly I am aware that’s all they are, not The Truth. Mostly I am aware that the truth is a mystery revealed in glimpses and that while we can be open to these glimpses, they can’t be forced or demanded.

After our second daughter was born very prematurely, a nurse told me these things happen to us only if we are strong enough to cope. I’ve heard that many times since – life only gives us what we can handle. I don’t really believe it – if it were true, people would not develop psychosis and or kill themselves. However, I do think that some of the suffering we experience can be a catalyst for growth – if we are able to see it. I am eternally grateful that somehow I was able to see that in the midst of my depression. My first baby’s very short life had a deep and meaningful purpose. I am eternally grateful for that.

Bio: For Yvonne Spence, motherhood and writing go hand-in-hand. Her short story about miscarriage came third in a She magazine contest. She gained a MA (with Distinction) in Creative Writing when her daughters were babies, and her novel Drawings in Sand, is about healing family secrets. She lives in Edinburgh, UK with her husband and family. Find her blogging at Yvonne Spence and Inquiring Parent

How Did We Get Here?

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter – an incoming third grader- was invited to her first night time birthday party. Four hours away from mom and dad, not coming home until after 9:00 p.m. Her response? “Yessssssss!” It was to be dinner, a movie and hanging with her girlfriends. Also, it just so happened that the party fell one day after she celebrated her 8th birthday. What could be more perfect? Absolutely nothing! However, for me, this was the first time that she would be away for an extended period of time with people that I really don’t know. I mean, I had met them before, but the mom and I are merely acquaintances. I can’t tell you the dad’s name; I don’t know where they are originally from; and I don’t know how many kids they have. Although my girl has been over to their house to play once for a couple of hours, I really don’t know them. So, my comfort level was a bit less than my daughter’s. Her dad and I agreed that she could go, but I realized that I needed to further our conversations about how she should handle herself when away from us. After all, she’s only eight and this is just the beginning of her expanding her social circle.

I’m not just referring to conversations about behavior – using indoor voices, being respectful, no climbing on furniture, etc. – we’ve had those. I’m referring to bigger issues like unwanted touching, drugs, alcohol and weapons. I know what you’re thinking “…but she’s only eight…parents are there to supervise.” I know, I know! I thought the same thing. Truth is that we are on warp speed. Everything starts younger now and parenting is not nearly as “uniform” as it used to be. When I was a kid back in the 60’s and 70’s, there was more of a commonality in what constituted right and wrong. I could do something “wrong” several blocks from my house and not only would I get in trouble from some adult who saw me, but by the time I got home my parents knew about it and were waiting with a punishment of their own. Not so much today. Not only is the concept of “right” and “wrong” very subjective, but correcting other people’s children has become taboo.

So, I sat down with my girl and told her that she could go to the party, but that there were a few things that we needed to talk about. After I quizzed her over our contact telephone numbers and our address, we had yet another discussion about what to do if someone makes her uncomfortable with inappropriate touching. Tell them “NO” using a loud, strong voice; go to an adult (if perpetrator is an adult, go to another adult); don’t listen if someone wants you to keep it a secret; if it feels bad, then it is bad; insist to use the phone and call home. Then we moved on to conversations about weapons (specifically guns) and a little about drugs. Guns: if you see one do not touch it, leave the room immediately, tell an adult and call home. Drugs: No medications should be taken unless given by mom or dad. NOTHING! If you want to know if it’s okay or not, call home and don’t trust what other kids tell you. There was more to the conversation than this, but you get the gist of it. Of course, it was child friendly while letting her know that I meant what I was saying.

After our talk she went off to play and I sat wondering how in the world we got here? When did we stop being a society that cared enough that an adult would willingly notify a child’s parents of his or her misdeed, to a society where an 8-year-old is responsible for their own safety? Teaching them to be self-aware is one thing, but teaching them to protect themselves from the very people who are put here to care for them is something else. We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge a growing lack of community. The kind of community that protects, nurtures and cares for our youngest, most vulnerable members. It made me sad, but more determined that my kids will not become victims. Not only do I not want them to see themselves as victims, but I want them to feel empowered to fight back or to appropriately respond in certain situations. Child molestation is nothing new, but awareness has grown, in large part due to social media. I need my daughter to know that it’s not something to keep quiet about and it’s certainly not her fault. My statements were not about gun ownership, but about gun safety because accidents happen all of the time due to carelessness. Furthermore, how many of us tried to sneak sips from our parent’s alcoholic drinks (or knew where their stash was) when we were kids? I’ll include myself in that show of hands. No, none of this is new. However, because we seem to be a society where increasingly everyone is so focused on our individual selves and less on caring for each other, we no longer can blindly send our children to be in the care of another adult. Nor can we assume that when our kids are out playing surely someone else is also keeping an eye on them and their safety.

My girl went to the party and had a great time. When I picked her up she was beaming and strung out on a sugar induced high. She came home and filled her little sister in on all of the details with that air of authority that comes with attending your first night time party. Everything went fine, just like I thought it would. I’m glad that we had our discussion and I’m sure that we will have many, many more in the years to come. Unfortunately, I think this has become the way of things, but fortunately, I can help her find her (and her sister) find her voice.

Bio: Lisa Owen is a writer and blogger at My So Called Glamorous Life and her work has been featured on Blogher.com. She is a mother/step-mother in a blended family with five children ages 6 to 23. Lisa has a B.S in Journalism from Southern Illinois University and spent 15 years working as a corporate/transactional paralegal for law firms and corporations before becoming a SAHM and pursing her passion for writing.


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