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. 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. 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, 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.