Change Starts at Home

Yesterday I stood upon a soapbox and professed my shame for the actions of some of my fellow men. Change is needed but the acts required to effect that change elude me. I have no idea, other than adding my voice to the masses already calling for change, what actions are necessary. I’m laughably broke and therefore unable to donate to organizations working to make the world a better place. What else can I do?

On my way home from work yesterday I decided one action I could take was educating my children so that at least my contribution to the next generation will not be bigoted. I don’t think this is a conversation that was necessary as my children would never learn bigotry by my example because I simply don’t hate. I’m not racist, sexist, or homophobic, but I have no clue what they might be exposed to at school.

I often feel awkward talking to the twins about adult topics. It’s not that I don’t feel they’re not intelligent enough to handle it, but I still have trouble acknowledging the fact that they’re not children anymore. I still think of them as my babies. I forget they’re merely a couple of years away from being exposed to a cruel, merciless world and that I need to prepare them for.

Once we were home last night, I grabbed a little liquid courage and sat down with them in the living room. I started out by asking them about the Elliot Roger fiasco. They hadn’t heard about it. I asked them if they thought if they were better than, less than, or equal to women. They both immediately said equal, though Baby B felt he needed to elaborate and tell me that physically men are usually stronger. I assured him that, yes, that is true most of the time, but I was referring to how we are treated. “Oh, then equal.”

We discussed the shooting which took place the other day. I explained that Elliot Rodger’s views were unacceptable and why.Β I told them if they ever ask a girl out and she says no to just leave it be, explaining that there could be any number of reasons they may be turned down and that most of those reasons probably wouldn’t have anything to do with them.Β The bottom line, I told them, is to think about what types of behaviors they would accept towards their mother and sister and have that in mind when they are dealing with women. I told them they needed to treat women with respect, and then, having thought about it for a minute, added, “Treat ALL people with respect whether they’re a man or a woman, black or white, gay or straight, fat or skinny. Treat all people with respect. We’re all people.”

Our conversation continued from there. We talked about mental health. We spoke about my mother’s mental breakdown when I was 13 years old. We spoke of their mother’s mental health. We spoke of mine. We spoke of sex education. We spoke of contraceptives. We spoke of pregnancy and birth. I reiterated that someone would get their ass kicked if I was a grandfather before I was 40.

We discussed the sexual abuse their mother and sister endured. We then spoke of other types of abuse. I decided, with the courage of a couple of drinks in me, to finally broach the topic of the abuse I suffered at the hands of their mother. I had mentioned to them before that their mother had attempted suicide, but I never told them why. Last night I finally did. I explained to them that their mother was unwell at the time (which is true). I told them I tried to leave her several times, but stopped every time because she either harmed herself, threatened suicide,Β or attempted suicide. I also told them I don’t regret staying because I have them as a result. I did, however, tell them if they ever found themselves in a similar position there are healthier ways to handle it. Call 911. Contact a family member and let them know so that they can get help. The bottom line, I told them, is to not let someone manipulate you with emotional guilt.

I made sure they understood that I was not trying to alter their opinion of their mother and reiterated that she was unwell at the time. I truly don’t want them to think ill of their mother, though I can’t see past the years of abuse to change my opinion about her. I want them to learn from my failure and not lose 10 years of their life trapped in someone else’s reality. And I told them so.

We spoke for about three hours last night. Amid the discussion of serious topics we also spoke of trivial things such as sports and music. And me throwing their uncle into a Christmas tree when we were younger. After our three-hour talk I felt better. I felt happy. I felt like we bonded a bit and like I accomplished something. I actually enjoyed it. We had fun. We laughed. I teased Baby A about the crush he has on a girl in his class.

It was a good night.

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About Twindaddy (330 Articles)
Sometimes funny. Sometimes serious. Always genuine.

71 Comments on Change Starts at Home

  1. It was a good talk. I was afraid of discussing their mother with them. I didn’t want them to think I was trying to denigrate her, but I needed them to know so that they know what to do if anyone ever does that to them.

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  2. I think Cimmy and I will discuss things with Princess as is appropriate– she’s dealing with a little harassment with boys at school and I know Cimmy’s handled some discussions about that already. She’s also discussed with me some health and body concerns, which I handled with as much sensitivity and grace I could muster.

    My son– well, he’s a seven-year old boy with autism. We still have to talk with him at a much more fundamental and basic level, I mean about his social behaviors. He has a wonderful teacher that I am pleased to work with; I used to phone or e-mail her almost every day but thankfully not quite as much now. Reminds me that I need to message her about his new caregiver.

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  3. wow that’s a lot of issues for one talk. i hope it all went well. sounds like it did. it is hard to see our babies as people and not babies but we’re all growing up here. so fast.

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  4. Bravo! THIS is how change is made, not with money or ranting on the interwebs! Your conversation will stay with those boys and hopefully prevent them from falling into some of the pits some of us have encountered. Have it often – it’s the only way the world will change.

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  5. I’m very happy you could do that with your children. I haven’t been able to yet seeing as my 3 year old is too high energy and my 1 year old is well…a 1 year old.

    Change DOES start at home and it’s absolutely amazing you are doing that.

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  6. This is a great story…so glad you had such an open talk with your twins. They will definitely learn from what you say but also what they see you do (and not do). It’s hard to know when is the right time…I’m challenged with how to make tough subjects understandable and appropriate for my 6 year-old… but kudos to you for not shying away from this.

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  7. Well done! It sounds like a terrific talk, mixed with enough give and take to keep it from being a lecture. That’s a tough balance to achieve!

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  8. Both my boys are under five, but the eldest has already asked some pretty intense questions. Sometimes the discussion is hard, but I do feel closer to him afterward, and heartened how conversations shift back to ninja turtles and lighter fare. I also feel my mom in them, as she once had such conversations with me. Rock on.

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  9. Gotta love the talks and especially when they are engaged. : )

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  10. This is amazing. So raw and emotional. I literally have goosebumps and teary eyes. Not what I was expecting, but wonderful.

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  11. That’s amazing. I’m so glad that you were able to have that kind of talk with your boys. A lot of parents aren’t too great at it or don’t even bother to make the effort. You’re right that change starts at home and it sounds like your boys are on a path to being wonderful and respectful young men. And they’ve got a great dad to thank for that. πŸ™‚

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  12. Now this is a post! I’m so proud of you for starting change at home, and having that discussion and sharing it. Maybe another parent out there will have the talk, and then another, and the more we talk about it, the healthier we all can be. Such a beautiful post, thank you for sharing!

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  13. heidiannehood // May 29, 2014 at 4:49 pm // Reply

    Standing ovation today. πŸ™‚
    Seriously though, this made my throat tighten. Good for you, and more, good for them that they have a dad that is awesome and brave enough to have these really, really hard conversations. Bravo!

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  14. Well done, TD. You just won parenthood.

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  15. I’d have to say you done good. But I knew you could. πŸ™‚

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  16. You’re a good dad, TD. A great dad.:)

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  17. Confirmation. In the most loving, practical way. Everything you said is perfect.

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  18. I’m beyond impressed. You should be proud of yourself for being such a great father. The world needs more dads like you. Teaching kids about respect…what a novel idea

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  19. Sounds like you are doing the important things right. Big high fives.

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  20. And my once again broken record says, “another great example of leading by example.”

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  21. Well doen TD. What you have done is what it will take to help stop these horror stories from happening again.

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  22. You are a good and powerful father.

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  23. As parents, we can be a powerful instrument for change by having these kinds of talks with our kids.

    Sometimes, they get the wrong messages from other people. My son’s best friend’s father is extremely racist. I know Little Dude has been exposed to some of his ignorance, and I’ve had to counteract it with conversation.

    It’s too bad his BFF will probably grow up racist, but it’s not my place to interfere. Maybe, when they’re older, I can say something? Although by then, it’ll probably be too late.

    Good post, TD.

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  24. So many things are hard to explain to young children… that’s why the parents get the big bucks, right?

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  25. That’s what I’m talking about!!! You are da bomb! That’s all we can do right now, pass down the beliefs and values to our children!! What a great thing! πŸ™‚

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  26. Hats off to you, TD.

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  27. A step in the right direction. And maybe they’ll be able to influence their friends too.

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  28. Good for you! So many parents never have any of this kind of talk with their children! When my daughter was a teen we had a talk too where I made sure she understood my values & we did a quick check on hers, our beliefs, etc. At the time, I didn’t go into what was going on with her father because we were still in a shared custody situation. But when she came & asked before getting married herself, I spoke openly & honestly, accepting my portion of the guilt. It was only at that time did she realize there were times when I was hiding what her father was doing to me from her & it explained some of my behavior to her. It made us closer – just as I bet your conversation last night made you closer with your children. Keep it up, have the conversations over & over as they grow.

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  29. I love hearing these stories. Taking the time to talk (meaningfully) with our children is one thing I feel is lacking today. I talk to my daughter every night and some nights, when something is on her mind, we may talk more than an hour. She will say, “mom can we start going to bed early because I want to talk about things.” My heart is happy about that. She takes after me with her compassion and her understanding of others. Way to go TD.

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    • Thanks, Hasty. Sadly, I don’t get to see my boys every night. I try to engage them often times, but they are teenagers. I’m actually surprised they participated in this conversation as much as they did.

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