A letter to my sons.
*Originally posted May 24, 2018.*
I am publishing this again. Because I think it is worth noting that I am teaching my sons, and daughter, about "no". About consent. About bullying. About persistence versus acceptance. Not necessarily because it is pertinent to my life right now. Though it is. But because it is pertinent to everyone's life. Always. But also right now in a yuuuuuuge way. I believe survivors. Dr. Ford didn't ruin his career with her allegations/story/recounting. Merely stalled it. Let's think of that the next time we wonder why more women don't come forward.
Also, I would like to add a note about consent. Consent is not the absence of no. Consent is...explicit confirmation of allowance, agreement, go ahead, I'm in, let's do it, what have you. If the person, male or female, is incapacitated to the point where they cannot say "no" and also canNOT say "yes", that is not consent. That. Is. NOT. Consent. Once more for the cheap seats. Or, let's say, the bench of the highest court in the land.
There is a letter to your sister. Read it.
You are extraordinary boys. Kind and thoughtful sons. Devoted and protective big brothers. You are similar in as many ways as you are different. You love one another right up until the moment you make each other crazy. It is exactly as siblings should be. My heart sings when I know you two will be forever companions.
You are bright. You each have a sparkle in your eye and one of you has a mischievous grin. You are insatiably curious about the world. Never lose that. Always ask questions and be willing to learn. It keeps you young and keeps you humble.
Don't lessen yourself. Ever. Your charm or wit or strength or bravery. Whether it is to make friends, or placate a boss or pave a smoother relationship road. It doesn't serve anyone. (Same advice to sister.)
Don't wait to ask for help if you need it. There is strength in knowing your weaknesses and being aware of what you don't know. That honesty is brave and will serve you well.
Don't ignore who you are. Know that because you are male and white, you have privilege that many others don't. Not that you didn't work hard or earn your accomplishments. Not at all. But you may have started on second base while others were still standing in the batter's box. Accept and acknowledge this. Use it to do good and make change. Reach out to others and lend a hand. You may not be able to change the world but you can change your corner of it. That is the best place to start.
Don't stuff your feelings or be afraid to cry. Those things, and all the rest of the emotional spectrum, do not make you weak. They make you human. Feeling them and working through them make you brave. Like I have taught you now, three second big belly breaths in and three second big belly breaths out to feel, to calm and to think more clearly. That little trick will work for you always. It doesn't make the feelings stop but it does let you manage them. It takes away the fear of that moment. You can do anything for six seconds. Then twelve. Then eighteen.
DO follow what makes you happy and curious and chatty and your eyes light up. Your path is yours. I have veered left on many occasions. Those, in hindsight, have been my best decisions. Follow your heart, it always knows the way.
This part is the exactly the same as I wrote to your sister.
Life is a tricky thing. Ultimately, everyone wants to love and to belong. It seems silly to boil it down to such simple wants. But for most people that is it. They want to love and be loved and they want a group of people to whom they feel like they belong. The best way to find this, to let it help you flourish and to maintain it, is to be yourself. To show up all shine and smarts and sass and weaknesses and rough spots and know you are worthy. Because you are. And on the days that that doesn't work (because it won't always work), find those forever people who know you and love you. All of you. Me, your brother and sister, your closest confidants. Let them hold you, heal you, right you and send you off again. You will find your place. It is there. Stay true to you and step into it. That is the best way to serve the world and those you love. Don't shortchange the world by shortchanging yourself. You were meant to be here in all your honest and real ways. Remember that. Always.
A short addendum.
No means no. It does not mean ask again in five minutes, five days or five weeks. It does not mean beg or plead. It does not mean bargain, blame or get mad. It is not an invitation for further discussion. It is not a situation where you need to explain yourself. No is a complete sentence. If the person tries to continue the conversation, that is on them not you. Once you say it or hear it? It is done.*
*Unless I have asked you to clean your room, do your homework/chores or get me something from upstairs. We will work on these exceptions.