Boys Don’t Cry, another socially constructed lie of humanness

Do you know what I’m really tired of people telling me? That little girls are more dramatic than little boys. That they’re so happy they have all male children or having a male child because “girls are drama.” Bullshit.

As a mother of two boys and two girls I can say unequivocally that the drama comes in equal parts from the different sexes in my home. And any drama or non-drama that comes from my children is solely based on their individual personalities and not their genitals.

Maybe it’s because I allow my sons the freedom to express the full capacity of their emotions without shaming them that they actually feel comfortable crying and saying their feelings are hurt or that they are willing to admit that they are sensitive. My two sons are very different from each other. One has more tender feelings than the other and that is okay. That’s a condition of being a human being, not a condition of being a certain sex.

There is a lot of crying and fighting and sibling rivalry in my house. It’s hard growing up and it’s hard living with other people. Especially your siblings some times. But I refuse to allow my daughters the space to express their emotions while simultaneously denying that from my sons because of the harmful and cultural lie that “boys don’t cry.” Yes, they do and it’s damn healthy.

I want all my children, my two sons and my two daughters, to grow up into people who can be empathetic and compassionate to others. I don’t want any of them to steel and shield themselves from the emotions of life because of damaging cultural expectations. How can I do this if I shunt and make them repress their emotions now while they’re growing up based on their sex?

In short, next time someone laughingly tells me that girls are so much drama, expect me to call you out. One individual girl might be more dramatic than one individual boy, but it’s a sweeping generalization that is hurting girls as much as hurts boys. Just stop it.

boys don't cry
Boys cry and that’s healthy and good
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You think you know better but you don’t

Brace yourselves for a rant.

I’m really tired of being accused of being a lazy mother because I medicate my children who have ADHD. I’m really tired of being told I just don’t want to deal with them, so I choose to drug them.

I’m sorry, but no. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a real thing and it’s not always solved with some extra playtime. It is a real psychiatric disorder of the neutrodevelopmental type and is recognized by the DSM-IV. Two of my children have been tested and observed extensively and they are in the clinical range. Their behavior and symptoms are not typical for their age group. Their parents, teachers, and doctor didn’t make up this disorder just because we like drugging children into mindless drooling drones.

Trust me, I wasn’t real thrilled with the thought of my daughter going on medication when she was first diagnosed with ADHD 7 years ago. I was in deep denial. I did not see the behaviors her teacher saw because, her being my first child, her behaviors were normal to me. I thought this was how all six year olds acted. I thought all six year olds could only do their homework for a few minutes at a time before they needed to go run around. I thought all six year olds stole items with little or no value because of impulse control problems. I thought all six year olds lost interest in an activity within minutes. I thought all six year olds had trouble concentrating, daydreamed, were excessively concerned with what others were doing, and had trouble listening and remembering what they were told. I excused her behavior with saying her beloved grandmother just died and so this is why she was distracted in school. I excused it by saying I was pregnant and there many changes in the household with a new baby coming and this is why she acted antsy. It wasn’t until her teacher told me that she missed 80% of what went on in class each day before I got out of my denial and allowed her to be tested for ADHD. And it was even harder to accept that my child was two standard deviations from the typical behavior of six year olds.

Being committed and concerned parents, her father and I immediately scheduled an appointment with her pediatrician. She had us do additional testing just to make sure. That test also came back with her showing signs in the clinical range. She prescribed her a very low dose of an ADHD medicine and waited to see results. We barely saw any and I doubted that my child had what everyone said she had.  Luckily for me at the time I worked with a lot of therapists and child psychologists and I sought their opinions. They pointed me toward a different medication, that is not a stimulant and not addictive, to see if that worked better. She was seven years old and deep into 2nd grade before she finally got on the right medication and her entire world (and our entire world) changed. I’m sure her 2nd grade teacher can tell you the exact day she started medication because she went from a child who literally could not sit down in her chair, so her teacher put her in a spot in the classroom where she could stand beside her desk, to a child her could sit for longer periods of time and concentrate.

adhd download

Do you know what ADHD did to my child in the meantime before we got the right medication figured out? It destroyed her self-esteem. Because she could not focus and concentrate she was way behind her peers in their knowledge. She could barely read a few sight words at the end of 1st grade. She thought she was dumb. Do you know what it’s like to have your 7 year old daughter feel so dumb and worthless she threatens to kill herself? I was lucky I knew therapists and I was able to get her treatment with therapists who taught her behavioral techniques that would help her concentrate and who also helped build her self-esteem. We were lucky to move to a school that had a phenomenal special education teacher who fought for her, with us, to get her into some resource classes so she could catch up with the kids in her grade.

And finally in 7th grade my precious daughter is finally on grade level for reading and I consider it a miracle. I thank my God above that there is a medication out there that helps her focus and concentrate. She is old enough to know the difference between the days she doesn’t take the medication and she prefers to take it because she knows school is easier to deal with when she does. And she is thriving in Junior High in a way I never dreamed possible. She has wonderful grades and has even been on the Honor Roll. She has taken great strides to become more independent and responsible and she is doing so well. Me withholding medication from my daughter for a real psychiatric disorder would be as dumb as my parents withholding asthma medication from me as a child just because they didn’t want to “over medicate their child.”  I don’t think the strides she has made would have been possible without the help of her medication.

I don’t know why we as a society treat illnesses of the brain as imaginary and it’s shameful to treat them when we don’t do that for any other part of the body. If my child had diabetes there is no question that she would be given insulin. If she had asthma like me, there is no way I would deprive her of a rescue inhaler. All my wishing away her ADHD didn’t work and the strides she has made in the last 7 years are because her medication suppresses her ADHD symptoms and allows her to learn.

I’m not saying every child with ADHD needs to be medicated. I’m just say my kids do and I refuse to be ashamed because of it. So, those of you who think you know better than me, the woman who gave birth to my daughter and my son with ADHD; who think they know more than their father who has devoted his life to raising these children; who think you know better than the doctor who has treated them since the first days of their lives; who think you know better than the child psychologists I took my daughter to to learn behavioral techniques to help her cope, I’m here to say, you think you know better BUT YOU DON’T. When it comes to my children and their medication this is a MYOB issue. I have dealt with this for almost a decade. I have spent countless hours reading research and books. I have talked to many therapists. And you? You read ONE article and you think you know more than me about ADHD? Laughable. Keep your uniformed opinions to yourself.

End rant.

To learn what it’s like to be in the mind of a person with ADHD, read this.

ADHD

Throwback Thursday – Baby Mine

I just wanted to share with my new readers the most favorite essay I have ever written. I wrote this essay back in the summer of 2006 for an upper-division English class I was taking for my minor. It has become even more meaningful to me as a mother since we have added two more children to our family and since my mother has passed away in 2007.

Baby Mine

When I was a child we were the first family on our street to own a VCR. It was mostly because my Mom wanted to be able to record Luke and Laura’s infamous wedding. Soon afterwards, Disney released most of its cartoons onto VHS. I remember watching the movie Dumbo with the same sort of enjoyment any kid would have. To me it was just a story about an elephant who could fly. To my Mom, however, it was a story about what a mother would sacrifice for her child.

I remember how my Mom would always cry when the song “Baby Mine” would play while Dumbo’s mom stuck her trunk out of her cage and rocked Dumbo to sleep. I guess the song and the scene hit my Mom hard right in the mommy-heart.

Years later, I brought my first child home from the hospital. While I reveled in our quiet moments of nursing and rocking together, I longed to find a song to sing to her that would adequately explain the feelings of joy and love I had for her. I remembered the song “Baby Mine” and I quickly learned the lyrics. I noticed that my singing never failed to quiet her when she was crying and put her to sleep after she was done nursing.

When my son was born a few years later, I sang “Baby Mine” to him as well. When he was six-weeks-old he was hospitalized for RSV. Even though he was just a tiny baby, and was a month premature already, the only time he seemed happy was when I would rock him and sing “Baby Mine.” His little baby eyes would roll back in his head and he was soon peacefully asleep.

Whenever I have sung this song to my children, my voice always catches when I sing the last lines of the song: but you’re so precious to me, cute as can be, baby of mine. I have never been able to sing the line “but you’re so precious to me” without my eyes welling up with tears. It’s because they are so precious to me. It’s hard to sing that line while I look into their angelic faces without my love for them coming to the surface.

Now that my children are a little older, they sometimes request that I sing to them before they go to sleep. Whenever I ask my two-year-old son what song he wants me to sing, he always says “Baby Mine.” I have even caught him singing the first lines of the song to himself on occasion. Sometimes when I sing it to him and he’s over-tired, he will get mad and yell, “I’m not a baby.” He doesn’t understand that he’ll always be my baby.

I have sung this song to my children, probably over a million times. The last time I did, I looked over at my two sweet angel-babies lying in their beds. Their faces were so trusting and their eyes were filled with peace. It is at these moments that I know exactly why my mother cried when Dumbo’s mom rocked him to sleep in her trunk. Again, my voice catches as I sing the words, “you’re so precious” to me. I can’t help it, the song and my children are too close to my mommy-heart.

Like a Girl

I’m really, really tired of the fact that being called a girl or a woman is the worst insult you can throw at a boy or a man. There is nothing shameful about being a girl and a woman, so why is it so insulting to be called one?

I was thinking about this recently when I was watching “The Sandlot” with my kids. I triple love that movie and part of it was filmed in my hometown. I’ve loved that movie for 20 years, but there is one part that has always bothered me. When Ham is trading insults back and forth with the rival baseball team his penultimate insult is to tell the other player that, “you play ball like a girl!” Everyone is shocked! How dare he go there? THAT WAS THE WORST DIS IN THE HISTORY OF TIME!!!

What does that even mean? This movie is set in the 1950s during a time where America had a professional girl’s baseball team. Shouldn’t playing ball like a girl be a compliment since back then there were professional female ball players and they were just kids in a sandlot?

There is a company in Salt Lake called Pick n’ Pull and they have rather annoying radio commercials. In one of their commercials the two guys in the ad are arguing over telling each other’s secrets. One of them shouts out at the end the other guy used to ride a girl’s bicycle that was pink. So what? What about him riding a “girl’s” bicycle as a child should be embarrassing or shaming? He got to ride a bike as a child. Congratulations, you’re richer than 90% of the world’s population.

Speaking of bikes, my son rode his sister’s bike to school the 2nd day of school because his scooter is broken and he didn’t want to walk. He was mercilessly teased on the way home. He came home bawling his face off because people were so mean to him about riding a “girl’s” bike. My daughter’s bike is black and just has a tiny butterfly sticker on it. Why the hell does it matter so much what bike he rode to school? Why is supposed to be so humiliating for a boy to ride or have anything remotely feminine? The sickening thing was that the child who teased him the most was a girl. It makes me sad that at a young age she is internalized the message that being a girl is wrong and shameful and she should attempt to humiliate any boy who does anything remotely feminine. It makes me so angry.

I’m still trying to figure out what “like a girl” even means! One time this kid told me I ran like a girl. My response? “Good because I AM a girl, dumbass.” Why was this kid trying to insult me by saying that something I was doing was feminine? What is so wrong with being feminine? What is wrong with being a girl? What is wrong with being a woman?

NOTHING!!!!

So, dear culture at large: stop trying to insult boys and men by saying they are girls. It’s not an insult to be a girl. Stop calling them names like the p-word that rhymes with wussy and all the other “delightful” euphemisms for female reproductive parts.  There is NOTHING wrong with being a girl. There is nothing wrong with being feminine. There is nothing weak about being a girl. There is nothing shameful about being a girl. There is nothing wrong with having a vagina and the ability to bring forth life. That, my dear, is the very essence of strength. (Pop 4 kids out of your reproductive parts and we’ll talk about whether you can use the p-word as another word for being weak, bucko).

So boys and men, next time you’re insulted by being called a girl or a woman, think about why. Think about it. Sit with it for a minute.  Is it because our culture has sold you the lie that it is shameful to be feminine? That it is shameful to be a woman? The culture is wrong. The culture is misogynistic and hates women, otherwise being called one wouldn’t be such an insult to you. Just like being a more masculine woman is not insulting. One gender is not better than the other (I’m totally aware of intersexed and transsexual people, but I’m talking generally here and I could write a whole other post about why transwomen are more likely to be killed and/or hurt because of transitioning to a female).

Next time someone tries to insult you by saying you’re “like a girl” in some respect, turn around and say “thank you!’ Because there it nothing wrong with being a girl. Nothing. And I refuse to let my children grow up in a world where being half the population is considered an insult.