Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘parenting’

Bell Hooks and Love

searchCommunion: The Female Search for Love by Bell Hooks (Harper Collins Publishers, 2002)

Excerpt from Chapter One – Aging to Love, Loving to Age.

Women are often more interested in being loved than in the act of loving. All too often the female search for love is epitomized by this desire, not by a desire to know how to love. Until we are able to acknowledge that women fail at loving because we are no more schooled in the art of loving than are our male counterparts, we will not find love. If the female obsession with love in patriarchal culture were linked from birth on to the practice of love, then women would be experts in the art of loving. And as a consequence, since women do most of the parenting in our nation, children would be more loving. If women excelled in the art of loving, these skills would be imparted to male and female children alike.

As long as our culture devalues love, women will remain no more able to love than our male counterparts are. In patriarchal culture, giving care continues to be seen as primarily a female task. The feminist movement did not change this perception. And while women more than men are often great caregivers, this does not translate into knowing how to be loving. Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust. Socialized in the art of caring, it is easier for women who desire to love to learn the necessary skills to practice love. And yet women have not chosen to give themselves whole-heartedly over to the art of loving. As long as being loved is seen as a gesture of weakness, one that dis-empowers, women will remain afraid to love fully, deeply, completely. Women will continue to fail at love, because this failure places females on an equal footing with males who turn away from love. Women who fail at loving need not be disappointed that the men in their lives – fathers, siblings, friends, or lovers – do not give love. Women who learn to love represent the greatest threat to the patriarchal status quo. By failing to love, women make it clear that it is more vital to their existence to have the approval and support of men than it is to love.

There Goes Our Sex Life

imgresWhen your newborn is literally sucking the energy from you twenty-four hours a day, will the energy to make love with your partner ever return? How do you nurture your relationship, and find time for sex, when you have young children wanting and needing your attention 24 hours a day?

You may find yourself replying to these questions by exclaiming, “Never.” “It’s impossible.” “You’re kidding!” or “We’ve given up trying.” The reality is that you DO have to make adjustments, continually negotiate with your partner and practice the patience of saints, but you DON’T have to give up your sex life altogether.

From the moment your baby comes into the world your lives are changed forever. No matter how long you’ve been together before the birth or how much you’ve read about it, there is nothing that prepares you for the overwhelming responsibility, attention and energy that parenting requires. Rarely do couples talk about how having a baby will effect their sexual lives, yet it can be one of the most difficult aspects of becoming a mother or father.

After having time to lavish each other with affection for months or years, before giving birth or adopting a child, you are unceremoniously thrust into EVERYTHING being structured around the baby. In terms of upsetting the apple cart of domestic tranquility, newborns are the most powerful force on the planet. When you sleep, eat, work and make love is predicated and influenced by the newest member of the family. It is utterly amazing how such a little bundle of flesh and bones can have so much control on our full-grown adult lives.

New fathers are particularly vulnerable during this change in life and often come down with the “whoa is me” syndrome. Not only does the baby literally come “between” the mother and father, the baby takes ALL of her attention. The physical bond between mother and child is very powerful. It can be difficult for father’s to accept this reality, even if they thought about it ahead of time. And if, like many men, a father associates sex with love, he may begin to fear that he isn’t loved anymore. This is especially true when the babies mother doesn’t have as much time, energy or desire to make love as often or as long as she used to. In the beginning months she may not want to at all.

Most women do not love their partners any less after the birth of a child; they simply do not have the time, energy and stamina to sexually express their love the same as they did before. Without denying the physical attraction that is part of the relationship dance, most healthy unions consist of more ingredients than just sex. This is where men (and women) can allow patience and understanding to take root, instead of frustration and anger and appreciate the many ways we can communicate our feelings for one another.

Give each other long hugs and kisses. Massage her/his back, neck, hands, arms, legs, feet and/or face. Cook and serve a special meal. Talk to each other and take the time to be present and listen. Don’t assume you each know what the other is thinking or feeling.

If you simply want sex, then find time alone to pleasure yourself. There is nothing wrong with some self-loving and care. Don’t expect your partner to supply all your needs or fulfill all your desires.

Usually, as a child develops, stops nursing and needs less physical attention, a woman’s libido also returns. If you’re the mother’s partner, let her be in the driver’s seat. She’ll let you know when she’s ready. Absence of sex doesn’t mean she loves or desires you any less, it is simply a physical and emotional reality that can arise from having a baby.

As your child grows physically and cognitively, steps into the toddler stage and enters their first years in school, an array of options for intimacy with your sweetheart will be presented. If your child is sleeping in your bed, once they have fallen asleep you can take a mat and go to another room for some mutual pleasure. Make sure to be aware of and adjust the sounds you allow yourselves to make, depending on how deeply your child sleeps.

Another wonderful opportunity is to develop a community of other parents with similar aged children and exchange childcare two to three mornings or afternoons a week. This is not only emotionally beneficial in sharing the experience of parenting, but also allows you to arrange your time, whenever possible, for you and your mate to get together and have a romantic morning or afternoon. If you have other family and/or friends who offer to provide childcare, don’t pass it up, always say, “Thank you. Yes. When and where?”

You can also carry on your romance without having to physically touch each other. Write a love letter, send a card, a gift or some flowers with a note. Stop by your partner’s place of work. If you’re son or daughter is with you, bring them along. You don’t have to stay long. Just stop by, let them know you were thinking about them and can’t wait to see them when they get home. If you’re the person working, take a break on your lunch hour, go home and give everyone hugs and kisses. If you work to far away to drive by give them a call. Let them know that even in the midst of your busy day, you are thinking of them.

As your child or children, move on into their adolescence, teens and early twenties, they become more aware of themselves and of their parent’s sexuality. It isn’t as easy to sneak off into the bedroom or bath while the kids are watching their favorite show or playing a video game. Nor can you linger in bed on a weekend morning, without them figuring out what’s going on. Make sure to have sound proof doors to your bedroom and teach your kids about privacy and knocking before entering a room with the door closed. They will want to have the same respect for their privacy as they age.

Once your child begins attending school there are more chances to rendezvous in a variety of locations. If you can’t make it home, call and talk sex on the phone.

At this age it is much easier to have them stay overnight at a friend or relatives, thus giving you the entire night to indulge in your fantasies or just go out to dinner, dance, a play, movie, etc. You may be able to swing a night at a bed and breakfast or go for a long ride in the country and make love outdoors. The possibilities are almost endless.

One’s relationship will change with or without children. Don’t let being a parent put a total stop to your sex life. You can experience the ecstasy and the agony of having children and the joy and pleasure of a satisfying love life. One does not preclude the other. It depends on your expectations, your ability to adapt and change and to love one another exactly where you are. Learn to love without trying to manipulate, control or coerce the other into some memory you have of how you think things were “before children” or having them match an imaginary image of “perfect sex”.

If you look, listen, feel and pause long enough to see what you have in your relationship and not what is temporarily missing, you may come to appreciate and value your partner in an entirely new light. Yes, having a child will change your relationship and your lives forever, but it doesn’t have to stop you from growing, sharing and loving one another in the most intimate and loving ways.

Greatest Threat to Patriarchy

Communion: The Female Search for Love by Bell Hooks (Harper Collins Publishers, 2002)

Excerpt from Chapter One – Aging to Love, Loving to Age.

Women are often more interested in being loved than in the act of loving. All too often the female search for love is epitomized by this desire, not by a desire to know how to love. Until we are able to acknowledge that women fail at loving because we are no more schooled in the art of loving than are our male counterparts, we will not find love. If the female obsession with love in patriarchal culture were linked from birth on to the practice of love, then women would be experts in the art of loving. And as a consequence, since women do most of the parenting in our nation, children would be more loving. If women excelled in the art of loving, these skills would be imparted to male and female children alike.

As long as our culture devalues love, women will remain no more able to love than our male counterparts are. In patriarchal culture, giving care continues to be seen as primarily a female task. The feminist movement did not change this perception. And while women more than men are often great caregivers, this does not translate into knowing how to be loving. Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust. Socialized in the art of caring, it is easier for women who desire to love to learn the necessary skills to practice love. And yet women have not chosen to give themselves whole-heartedly over to the art of loving. As long as being loved is seen as a gesture of weakness, one that dis-empowers, women will remain afraid to love fully, deeply, completely. Women will continue to fail at love, because this failure places females on an equal footing with males who turn away from love. Women who fail at loving need not be disappointed that the men in their lives – fathers, siblings, friends, or lovers – do not give love. Women who learn to love represent the greatest threat to the patriarchal status quo. By failing to love, women make it clear that it is more vital to their existence to have the approval and support of men than it is to love.

Where have all our children gone?

Where have all our children gone?

The oldest daughter moved out. The next to oldest daughter left soon after. Then, our first-born son went his way and his older brother followed suit. There is one remaining. One 17-year-old boy graduating in just under 4 months, ready to burst out onto the college scene and take flight. He may move this year after high school graduation or next, but either way, it is not long until we are going to be empty-nesters or are we?

Our daughter, who lives just 1/2 mile away, is about to have her first baby (and we will definitely be hanging out with her daughter as much as possible). Her childhood friend (who we have known for almost 2 decades) just had a little boy a week ago and we’ve gladly offered to babysit. Our daughter who lives in Seattle has a son who is almost 2. I’ll be going to see them in a few weeks. Then, there are our friends who are in the process of adopting a brother and sister (5 & 7), who they have foster cared for over a year now, whom I also love to support and spend time with. And two of our 3 sons also plan to have children some day.

When it comes down to it, we haven’t “lost” anybody, but only gained more wonderful beings to the family and increased the amount of love and care to go around. Completing the circle, are all the wonderful children at the ROP Center for Street Children in Rwanda and those there caring for them.

I’ve known I wanted to parent children since I was sixteen. It looks like my wish has come true 10 fold and will always be a part of my life until my last breath as a human. Sure, I enjoy my wife and my time alone and being able to spend time together and do things we couldn’t always do when children were living with us 24X7, but it is also an awesome and wonderful responsibility to support, perhaps guide and nurture other precious beings and make a difference in their lives and hopefully, their hearts.

As someone once said, “Parenting can be both agony and ecstasy and is the hardest job you’ll ever love.”

No More Secrets

I thought I understood the devastation that keeping child abuse a secret can cause. I had grown up with eight foster sisters, who were all placed in our home because of some kind of abuse in their home of origin and I had worked in mental health programs with countless survivors of abuse. Even with those experiences, the full impact never really hit me in the face until my wife and I became foster-parents to our then fourteen-year-old foster-daughter. The reality of her life broke through any illusions we may have previously held. I would have sworn we were prepared for her moving in and knew just what to expect. We were gravely mistaken.

Night after night, we heard her crying herself to sleep. It alternated between soft weeping to heart-wrenching sobs and wails. As hours turned into weeks, we did our best to comfort her with our presence, words and actions. She needed to know she was a person of value, strength and beauty. In addition to her physical and sexual abuse, she had also endured extreme emotional trauma. Slowly, the tide began to turn. She got involved in school, plays, attracted friends like bees to honey and appeared happy and sure of herself. But, just as all seemed quiet on the western front, a new internal assault flooded her mind and began to wreak havoc on her heart and soul.

It was midnight when we heard a loud thumping sound coming from her room; shrieks and screams followed. As we got to her bedroom door we heard her yelling, “Help me, help me, help me. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Stay out, stay out.” We tried to open the door but she’d locked it and would not let us in. We tried everything we could think of shout, beg, bargain, demand and still no luck. Finally we jimmied the lock and got in. As we entered, she was lying under a blanket, hiding in the closet. She refused to look at us, and we saw that her hand was black and blue from slamming the wall. She was having a flashback and was grabbing at her throat and clawing at her face.

That night seemed to last an eternity. After hours of holding, talking and crying, she slowly came out of her hell. She told us of suicidal thoughts and actions. We called her therapist for help and over the next few days did the best we could. A little light began to seep back into her consciousness.

And so it went. Day after day; week after week; month after month. Far from being experts on parenting and abuse, we discovered that we were more like babes in the woods.

Fortunately, our adopted daughter is one of the lucky ones. She had enough strength and courage to leave her abusive environment, break through her denial of the abuse and begin a new life. She went on to graduate from UC Berkeley, is now married, is an amazing tutor and pregnant with a baby girl. Her abuse had lasting impacts on her and those around her, but she hasn’t let her past define who she is or limit what she can become.

There are many times I still forget or choose not to think about, the secret abuse that remains in the dark recesses of thousands of lives (women and men) and is kept close to the vest and under wraps; for some, until the day they die.

Where did our sex life go?

When your newborn is literally sucking the energy from you twenty-four hours a day, will the energy to make love with your partner ever return? How do you nurture your relationship and find time for sex when you have young children wanting and needing your attention every waking (and sleeping) moment? What is the secret to having intimate evenings together when your child or children are in their teens?

You may find yourself replying to these questions by exclaiming, “Never.” “It’s impossible.” “You’re kidding!” or “We’ve given up trying.” The reality is that you DO have to make adjustments, continually negotiate with your partner and practice the patience of saints, but you DON’T have to give up your sex life altogether.

From the moment your baby comes into the world your lives are changed forever. No matter how long you’ve been together before the birth or how much you’ve read about it, there is nothing that prepares you for the overwhelming responsibility, attention and energy that parenting requires. Rarely do couples talk about how having a baby will effect their sexual lives, yet it can be one of the most difficult aspects of becoming a mother or father.

After having time to lavish each other with affection for months or years, before giving birth or adopting a child, you are unceremoniously thrust into EVERYTHING being structured around the baby. In terms of upsetting the apple cart of domestic tranquility, newborns are the most powerful force on the planet. When you sleep, eat, work and make love is predicated and influenced by the newest member of the family. It is utterly amazing how such a little bundle of flesh and bones can have so much control on our full-grown adult lives.

New fathers are particularly vulnerable during this change in life and often come down with the “whoa is me” syndrome. Not only does the baby literally come “between” the mother and father, the baby takes ALL of her attention. The physical bond between mother and child is very powerful. It can be difficult for father’s to accept this reality, even if they thought about it ahead of time. And if, like many men, a father associates sex with love, he may begin to fear that he isn’t loved anymore. This is especially true when the babies mother doesn’t have as much time, energy or desire to make love as often or as long as she used to. In the beginning months she may not want to at all.

Most women do not love their partners any less after the birth of a child; they simply do not have the time, energy and stamina to sexually express their love the same as they did before. Without denying the physical attraction that is part of the relationship dance, most healthy unions consist of more ingredients than just sex. This is where men (and women) can allow patience and understanding to take root, instead of frustration and anger and appreciate the many ways we can communicate our feelings for one another.

Give each other long hugs and kisses. Massage her/his back, neck, hands, arms, legs, feet and/or face. Cook and serve a special meal. Talk to each other and take the time to be present and listen. Don’t assume you each know what the other is thinking or feeling.

If you simply want sex, then find time alone to pleasure yourself. There is nothing wrong with some self-loving and care. Don’t expect your partner to supply all your needs or fulfill all your desires.

Usually, as a child develops, stops nursing and needs less physical attention, a woman’s libido also returns. If you’re the mother’s partner, let her be in the driver’s seat. She’ll let you know when she’s ready. Absence of sex doesn’t mean she loves or desires you any less, it is simply a physical and emotional reality that can arise from having a baby.

As your child grows physically and cognitively, steps into the toddler stage and enters their first years in school, an array of options for intimacy with your sweetheart will be presented. If your child is sleeping in your bed, once they have fallen asleep you can take a mat and go to another room for some mutual pleasure. Make sure to be aware of and adjust the sounds you allow yourselves to make, depending on how deeply your child sleeps.

Another wonderful opportunity is to develop a community of other parents with similar aged children and exchange childcare two to three mornings or afternoons a week. This is not only emotionally beneficial in sharing the experience of parenting, but also allows you to arrange your time, whenever possible, for you and your mate to get together and have a romantic morning or afternoon. If you have other family and/or friends who offer to provide childcare, don’t pass it up, always say, “Thank you. Yes. When and where?”

You can also carry on your romance without having to physically touch each other. Write a love letter, send a card, a gift or some flowers with a note. Stop by your partner’s place of work. If you’re son or daughter is with you, bring them along. You don’t have to stay long. Just stop by, let them know you were thinking about them and can’t wait to see them when they get home. If you’re the person working, take a break on your lunch hour, go home and give everyone hugs and kisses. If you work to far away to drive by give them a call. Let them know that even in the midst of your busy day, you are thinking of them.

As your child or children, move on into their adolescence, teens and early twenties, they become more aware of themselves and of their parent’s sexuality. It isn’t as easy to sneak off into the bedroom or bath while the kids are watching their favorite show or playing a video game. Nor can you linger in bed on a weekend morning, without them figuring out what’s going on. Make sure to have sound proof doors to your bedroom and teach your kids about privacy and knocking before entering a room with the door closed. They will want to have the same respect for their privacy as they age.

Once your child begins attending school there are more chances to rendezvous in a variety of locations. If you can’t make it home, call and talk sex on the phone.

At this age it is much easier to have them stay overnight at a friend or relatives, thus giving you the entire night to indulge in your fantasies or just go out to dinner, dance, a play, movie, etc. You may be able to swing a night at a bed and breakfast or go for a long ride in the country and make love outdoors. The possibilities are almost endless.

One’s relationship will change with or without children. Don’t let being a parent put a total stop to your sex life. You can experience the ecstasy and the agony of having children and the joy and pleasure of a satisfying love life. One does not preclude the other. It depends on your expectations, your ability to adapt and change and to love one another exactly where you are. Learn to love without trying to manipulate, control or coerce the other into some memory you have of how you think things were “before children” or having them match an imaginary image of “perfect sex”.

If you look, listen, feel and pause long enough to see what you have in your relationship and not what is temporarily missing, you may come to appreciate and value your partner in an entirely new light. Yes, having a child will change your relationship and your lives forever, but it doesn’t have to stop you from growing, sharing and loving one another in the most intimate and loving ways.

The Vital Ingredient

One mother, two mothers, three mothers or four – we can never have enough love and care for our children. One father, two fathers or more – we can never provide too much love and care for our children. Raised by a grandparent, a brother or and aunt – there is never too much love to go around. One mother and a father, a stepfather and/or a stepmother – there is never too much support, stability and loving presence for our children.

If children are our most precious resource (which is repeatedly mouthed by politicians and religious leaders), what difference does it make if their parent(s) and/or those willing to adopt them, are gay, heterosexual, bisexual, asexual, black, white or brown? The arguments against adoption by gay or different colored parents become increasingly ludicrous, unsubstantiated and unsupportable.

Everyone, who knows or is a gay parent, understands that sexuality has nothing to do with one’s ability to care for children. Every significant study of children raised by gay or different colored parents over the last two decades has shown there is no difference (other than a slightly safer home environment in lesbian households than in heterosexual ones) in how well-adjusted, successful and happy their children are as adults. Nor is there any significant difference in the percentage of children that become adults and identify themselves as heterosexual or gay, than in those raised in households with a heterosexual mother and father.

Our family has experienced almost every kind of parenting. From a previous marriage I have two amazing children. As a single father I adopted a wonderful son. After re-marrying we became foster parents to an incredible daughter and my wife birthed a beautiful little boy. The only kind of parenting I haven’t experienced is that of being a gay parent and/or a different color then our children, but many friends have had that experience and continue to provide their children the love and support we all need growing up.

I’ll never forget the birth of our friend’s daughter almost twenty-five years ago. She was a bright joyous addition to our world and is now a delightful, intelligent young woman, secure in herself and her own sexuality. She grew up with two moms and had as much or more love and opportunity than most.

Another friend adopted a boy and a girl who are both well adjusted, happy adults who fondly visit their parents and call them both Dad.

One of my foster sisters adopted an incredible little girl with multiple physical problems as a baby and continues to raise her, as a single, gay mom and is helping her grow into a healthy assured teen.

Even though my wife and I both identify our selves as heterosexual, one of my sons and one of our daughters are gay. They will make wonderful parents, not because of their sexuality or gender, but because they are good, caring, respectful human beings.

Common sense and human decency shows us the advantages of providing permanent safe homes for our children. Being part of a responsible, nurturing family with boundaries, limits and an ongoing container of love are the vital ingredients of a good home, not the color of the parents or guardians skin or their sexual orientation.

If some people, acting out of their own religious or political beliefs, choose to make or support ignorance and outdated laws that separate, divide and/or condemn others because of their race or sexuality, that is their sad right. On the other hand, if they really want to support “the family” and wish to make a lasting difference in the health of our nation, they can open their eyes and hearts and lend a hand to those who have taken on one of the toughest, most frustrating and satisfying jobs in the world – parenting.

The Infamous Boomerang.

She’s off fighting for the causes she believes in and putting her body and heart where her mouth is. She graduated from college, demonstrated in Seattle, worked for Americorps VISTA in Albuquerque New Mexico, completed medical school and is now a practicing physician.

No, I’m not speaking about an extremist expecting the world to follow their belief system, I’m speaking about my once cantankerous daughter Darcy. She’s mellowed during her years as an intern and having a baby last year has given her a new perspective on pretty much everything, but she still teaches me a lot about standing up for your self and others.

Before, during and after a Thanksgiving holiday several years ago, Darcy had several heated debates with various family members, including myself, about politics, business, world trade and health care.

Watching her adamantly and forcefully presenting her case; gave me pause and a fit of quiet bemusement. I thought about the infamous boomerang. Everything I’d thrown out in my younger days was being regurgitated back in my direction. It was like looking in a mirror at myself thirty years ago, when I too felt the world was falling apart and only radical and instant change could save it.

I agreed with a lot of Darcy’s ideas and beliefs, but not always with how to achieve them. She wanted to rid the world of fire breathing dragons and she wanted it yesterday! She believed so strongly in her views that there was little room for disagreement or looking at things from any other perspective.

At one point in the conversations held during that holiday, she said, “Maybe when I’m older and have kids I’ll feel differently.” She was right. I don’t think she feels differently, but how she presents what she feels is much easier to digest.

Is it simply age and responsibilities that change a person or could it also, hopefully, be a combination of increased understanding and deeper insight into life’s realities and accepting the limits of what we can and can not do to make the world a better place to live? Or, could it be that I’m not willing to risk as much as I did in the past and have become complacent? Have I become too conservative and set in my ways or did she need to grow up and look at things differently?

I’ve worked hard to be able to work at a job that matches my convictions and beliefs and am living a life that is congruent with my perception of what is needed environmentally and socially. My actions, for the most part, match my rhetoric. I pick my battles instead of trying to fight them all in one fell swoop. But, is that enough? I believe so, but maybe it took her young eyes of determination, questioning and insistence upon change to keep me looking in the mirror to see if mine were still open?

Tag Cloud