discussion

Gender Identity and Young Children

I was having coffee with my friend, M, the other night.  We talked about this and that… a meandering conversation the way mothers do when we manage to get out without our kids for a few hours.

One of our many topics was her son A, who is a unique little boy.  He sees the world in his own way.  Which is wonderful, until it isn’t.

M sent me this note today and allowed me to reprint it here, because, quite frankly, I was stumped.  Having a daughter who is very much a girly girl, I’ve never had to explore gender identity.  But what would you do in M’s situation?

 

Hubby and I are discussing how to support A’s emerging gender identity while still giving him the tools he needs to protect himself from bullying. So far we’ve supported him in whatever choices he’s made but are worried about school starting and the fact that he doesn’t always conform to established norms.
 
Here’s the background. My middle son A is 4, going on 5. He’s got some mild developmental issues that we’re identifying (sensory, gross-motor), and may be operating slightly younger then his chronological age (maybe late 3/ early 4). He’s an amazing child and has a wonderful sense of self and individually. I love the way he looks at the world.
 
In my opinion, he has a very healthy gender and self identity. He knows he’s a boy, and that he like some “girl” things. His favorite colour is purple, and he likes pink. He plays babies and kitchen with his little sister, but also monsters and Pokemon with his older brother.
 
He’s worn his sister’s purple dress to preschool over his clothes, and when told by his peers that boys don’t wear dresses, just matter of factly told them “Sometimes I do.” We went shoe shopping this week, and he left with pink sparkly princess shoes. Which he proudly told everyone he saw about “I’m a boy who wears princess shoes.” He wants the pink and white bike (which he didn’t get cause he doesn’t need a bike). He fought with his sister over the pink t-shirt that my mother picked up at the thrift store. When playing, sometimes he’s the mom, sometimes he’s the dad, sometimes he’s the dad lady, and sometimes he’s a dinosaur. Most days he’s in typical “boy” clothes with bright purple socks, and now his princess shoes.
 
He’s given his sister a lecture on gender equality when she told him that boys don’t cook. “Sometime Mommy cooks, and sometimes Daddy cooks. Sometimes Daddy cleans, and sometimes Mommy cleans.”
He told me once that when he grows up he wants to be a “girl teacher with purple hair”. I told him that if he still wants that when he’s older I’ll support him.
 
I love him like he is and wish I could change the world to make it fit him. I don’t want to change him to fit the world. I just hope that he keeps his self confidence and sense of himself.
 
We’ve talked about it, and don’t care if he’s gay or trans, or just a boy who likes “girl” things. But both of us were heavily influenced by bullying when we were kids and really worry about that too. So far we’ve been erring on the side of, “we’ll support you in what ever you decide” (in 4 year old words). Right now we’re thinking that we’ll talk a little more about how although it’s ok to like girl things, not all his classmates will agree and they may comment or tease. But I worry that he won’t have the emotional maturity to really understand that he’s a little outside the norm. We’re not even sure if he’ll be ready for kindergarden in the fall (outside of any gender discussion).
 

Any suggestions, resources, tips?

And so, my dear readers… what say you?
Hoping someone out there has some fabulously brilliant ideas, because I am at a loss.

I’m Not.

I see this all the time now.

“I’m PR friendly!”

Perky, isn’t it?

I go and look at the sites of the people who claim this loud and proud on their Twitter profiles, trying to figure out what makes someone ‘friendly’. As opposed to … unfriendly?

Does it mean you can’t ever swear on your blog?

Well, fine. But can you guarantee me that these people never swear in their every day lives? Never let the occasional F-bomb slip after dropping their grandmother’s precious china serving dish on the kitchen floor? Because if you agree to represent a brand, does it start and end at your blog?

Does it mean you can’t have any ‘questionable’ ads on your site?

I’m definitely guilty of that *cough* Toy with Me and Nipple Charms *cough*. I choose to run these ads because I like the ladies behind them. And I believe in the message of being sex positive. After all, most of us got to be moms by having sex, didn’t we? Are we supposed to deny our sexuality because we’re now moms? And yet some brands believe you can’t be both. A mom and a sexual being. How… interesting.

Does it mean you can’t write about controversial or hot-button topics?

Isn’t that part of what a blog is about? Our little space of the world to tell it like we see it. To be able to state our views loud and proud.  To prompt discussion.  And air our feelings.  Do we really have to abandon that to become PR friendly?

Housewife Im Not.It seems likes a lot of major brands want us to conform to the image of the perfect 1950′s housewife.

But that’s not my reality. That’s not who I am.

I am not a perfect mother. I am not a perfect wife. I am not a perfect blogger. I am not a perfect anything.

And in my imperfections I find beauty and the opportunity to learn and grow.

So, if being PR friendly means I have to create some false persona and project a sweet happy image to the world, then I think I’ll stay over here being unfriendly and true to who I am, instead.

The Victim

There is a particular brand of women I don’t tend to be friends with in real life.  I have no patience for them.  I don’t want them around me.

funny pictures melodrama cat The Victim

Yet I find it harder to escape this type when I’m online.  Social media tends to breed them.

I’m talking about women who are The Victim.

These are women that have a pervasive ‘woe is me’ attitude… about everything.  And they’re too busy crying about how life has done them wrong to change anything.

I know everyone goes through their ‘things’.  People are entitled to bad days, bad weeks, even bad years.  Sometimes shit happens.  Even I’ve had my fair share of downer moments on this blog in the past few years.

But it’s when you’d rather sit around feeling sorry for yourself, wallowing in your own self pity, that I tend to tune out.

My friends in my day-to-day world tend to be women of strength.  Women who, in some cases, have been dealt a pretty shitty hand lately.  And they’ll talk about their frustrations and what’s bothering them.  Sometimes they even have a good cry over things.  Then they pick themselves up and move forward.  Because life does not stop.  They are women who choose to focus on what is right in their lives and make the best out of what they can’t always control.

Then you have the other category of women.  I sometimes wonder how much of their constant personal drama is locked into a cycle because they feed off the attention of others.  They surround themselves with people who will pat them on the head, tell them how life has dealt them a raw deal,  and constantly confirm to them how wonderful they are, over and over and over and over,… and over and over and … yeah, well… If you’re that type, I probably stopped reading and commenting on your blog about 5 ‘overs’ ago.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I never expect people to agree with me on everything (just like I don’t expect everyone to agree with this post).  My friends regularly have discussions on differing opinions.  I love that.  I feel it helps me learn, grow, view the world as I might not have thought to.

By surrounding yourself with people that will only agree with you, and attack anyone who says the least little thing outside of the acceptable rote responses, you are locking yourself into victim mode.

What I’ve been considering, lately, is how much I contribute to this by not saying anything.  By not commenting that ‘hey, I’m sorry you’re having a rough time, but look at your wonderful healthy kids, your great job, your nice house,’ am I just as bad as those people who smother The Victim with the protective shield that drips with venom for the naysayers?

And I guess that’s why I don’t speak up.  I don’t want to become a target for the whiners posse who are posed to attack anyone who doesn’t agree fully with everything The Victim says.  I don’t feel like causing huge internet drama through one comment.

And so, the next question becomes, as my hand hovers over the unfollow and delete buttons, why don’t I just eradicate these people from my online life like I would my real life?

Possibly because I have learned that in this day of social media that a simple unfollow, a quick delete, a removal from my blog roll (blog rolls are meant to be dynamic, people. Sheesh.  Who I read changes on my mood), can cause just as much drama.  Because for The Victim, anything that can cause drama means more attention for them.  Booyah!

So either way I’m left feeding the addiction for these people.  And I do believe it’s an addiction.  To attention. To blog stats.

So what to do?

Cause drama, or sit back and watch it?

Open Yourself to the Possibilities (Relationship Series: Part 1)

You can find the series intro here: Relationships – An Intro


type….backspace…type, type, type…backspace….select all…delete.

*sigh*

I wish I could claim writers block on this, but it’s the exact opposite.

The words are fighting to get out. So many ways to say things and every word has to be considered, weighed.

So lets change approaches here and start with a bit of background instead.

Rewind the clock….way back to my childhood, when on a chilly fall day, at the age of 12, I met…well, let’s call him Mr. O

It was intrigue at first sight.

Even back then he didn’t quite fit in to that tried and true mold of what defines normal.  He’s always marched to the beat of his own drummer.

As we grew up, he was always there.  Always whatever I needed him to be.  Friend, confidant, protector, and…more.

Then, in the way that sometimes happens when you’re young, as I turned more and more to whatever guy was flavor of the week and less to him, Mr. O slowly faded, then disappeared from my life.

I always wondered what had happened to him.  Not in a longing, want him back in my life way.  But in a wanting to know his life had turned out alright for him way.

Until a chilly fall day in 2009, when I opened my inbox to a message from him.

That would be one of those days when I love social media.

4052558883 c9920bf4ef m Open Yourself to the Possibilities (Relationship Series: Part 1)
Image by xmasons via Flickr

We exchanged messages that went something along the line of “So… what have you been up to for the past 15 or so years?”

We caught up on friends, parents, work, family, marriages.  And that would be where he dropped…well, for me… a bit of a bombshell.

The words “open marriage

I don’t know why I was the least bit surprised.  Remember that ‘marching to the beat of his own drummer’ thing?  Yeah.  Exactly.

For what ever reason, though, those two simple words prompted Bil and I to have several lengthy conversations about our own relationship, relationships in general, and whether monogamy is a natural state of mind or a force sense of being in today’s world (more to come on all that in part 2 of my series)

But just examining my own relationship wasn’t enough.

After I got over the whole “OMG, No Way, Are You Serious, WTF” reaction, I moved on to curiosity.  OK, who am I kidding, I’m just nosy.

Mr. O agreed to sit down and talk with me about the dynamics in his relationship with his wife.  The words below are mine as recalled from snippets of our 3 hour conversation in a local Starbucks to the best of my memory.  I was too busy firing questions at him to actually write the answers down (cause I’m classy and brilliant like that).  Any errors or omissions are mine alone.

Isn’t Open Marriage just a fancy way of saying ‘cheating’?

No.  Cheating means sneaking behind your partners back.  This is an open marriage.  It means being open and honest. If I find someone I want to play* with then I talk to my wife about it.  She has to agree to it.

*people who engage in BDSM or D/s relationships often refer to their activity as “play”. A single play session called a “scene”

And if she doesn’t?

My wife has full veto power.  If she’s not comfortable with it then it doesn’t happen.  If she does agree to it, then later changes her mind and decides she doesn’t want to continue, that’s her right, and everything stops.  My relationship with her is the priority.

If you did meet someone and start playing with them and then your wife decided she wanted you to stop, wouldn’t that… I don’t know… tick you off a bit?

No.  Absolutely not.  She has to be able to trust me to respect her wishes in this, otherwise it’s not going to work.  And I’m not going to do anything to screw up my relationship with her.  So if she says no, then that’s the end of discussion.

So is it just you that goes outside the marriage then?

No.  If my wife met someone she wanted to play with then we’d have the same conversation and I’d have veto power.

Do you guys ever play together with other people?

We have.  It really has to be the right situation and everyone has to agree with it.

What would make you go outside the marriage in the first place?  If you’re happy in your relationship would you really need to look outside your marriage?

Sure.  It’s not about not being happy in a relationship.  I love my wife and am very happy with her.  She’s the only one who could put up with my shit for this long.  But, I like to play, and she knows that.  That’s who I am. Sometimes it’s as simple as having a friend who isn’t getting something that she needs in her own relationship.  If I can help her with that, help her spice up her own relationship, and my wife’s OK with it, then why wouldn’t I?

Do you kids know about your lifestyle?

No.  Never. The don’t need to know.  I don’t want them to know.

** UPDATED** As I said any mistakes in writing this are mine.  What this should have said was No, because they’re too young.  But Mr.O was kind enough to respond and expound on this particular point:

In order to clarify for our avid readers I will comment.

In relation to divulging the nature of my marriage and its openess, it is not a matter of us never revealing it to the children, it is a matter of when! As they are both under 12, to divulge this information now could be detrimental to not only my wifes work, but also any social relations my kids have. Dependant upon their development and emotional maturity, I have every intention of speaking of this with my kids, when they have the ability to comprehend what is being said and to make informed and educated decisions on it. It is not a matter of any hidden or suppressed form of shame, but rather an issue of maintaining balance between our Kink and our mundane lives to ensure that it causes no complications for anyone.

As a professional Martial Artist and former Unarmed Combat Instructor, it would be akin to my teaching a new student “Death Moves” on day one rather than ensuring they have the basics first.  Same goes for telling our kids, when the time is right or they have questions, we will answer them fully.

And besides, if and when the time comes, we may have stopped playing and therefore have no need.

It’s like I said before… I refuse to subscribe to socially accepted morality when I was never consulted during its development!

~Mr. O


Have you guy always had an open marriage?

No.  I repressed a lot of myself when I started dating my wife.  I assumed she was vanilla*  so tried to be that way too and we never talked about it.  We were married for years before it finally came out and I found out that she was a sub**.

*vanilla – used to describe anything or anyone that’s non-kink
**sub – short for submissive.  The less dominant partner, and sometimes slave to a Dom, in a D/s relationship

Have you always known that you were into this sort of lifestyle?

Well before I met my wife I was actually in a polyamorous relationship.  And that worked well for me.  So I knew then that I enjoyed that type of open relationship.

What about jealousy?

Yes, that can be an issue.  But that’s why you set up certain ground rules and why any potential relationship or play is vetted through my wife.

And these types of relationships aren’t for everyone.  It  takes a certain sort of mentality to engage in them.  If you can’t separate love from sex then this is not going to work for you, because that’s when a lot of jealousy happens.

What would you say to someone who was suppressing their sexuality in a vanilla relationship?

Talk about it.  Communication is important.  Even more so if you’re considering an open relationship.  You never know… your partner might be interested in exploring the same things as you, but just suppressing it as well.

Eventually you’re going to get tired of suppressing what ever it is (kink, the need for sex more often, whatever).  If you don’t have open communication with your spouse at this point, then that’s when you see people cheating because they feel they don’t have other options.  But there are always other options.

Like what?

Well, you can go back to suppressing, which isn’t going to make you happy.  And if you’re not happy how can you make your partner happy?.  You could cheat, but then you’re ruining the trust in a relationship.  You could talk to your partner about about the possibility of opening up the relationship.  Or you could consider divorce.

Of the four options, if you have good communication and ground rules, then I think opening the relationship is the best option.

So, that, in a long drawn out nut shell, is an open relationship.  Or rather one version of it.

So now you should all go and make your marriages open.  Noooo… not really.  That’s not what this is about.

It is merely to prompt conversation.  Your own internal conversation, conversation with your spouse, conversations here.

And to allow you to begin to examine prejudices.  Even if you don’t agree with open relationships (and I’m no psychic, but I’m going to bet that a lot of you wont), is it really a bad thing for those people who it does work for?

I would also be curious if there’s anything that I didn’t cover here, that you would like me to go back and ask Mr. O about.  Because, being the nosy bitch I am, and him having many years experience dealing with my charming personality, I’m sure he’d be willing to share, if only to get me to shut up.

UPDATE#1: I posted the first update from Mr.O in the section about whether his kids know, above.
UPDATE#2: Some further information and clarification from Mr. O:

Many so called “Dom/mes” are not always as they tout themselves to be. Far too many are just egotistical and prey on weaker individuals. Anyone that participates in any form of BDSM or D/s play and has done so for any length of time understands that it is not the Dominant that has control… Submissive in any facet have the control and thus control any “Scenes” that take place. The only power a Dominant has is that which is given to them. Thus it is imperative that the trust is there!

Granted, some may view my wifes and my relationship as abnormal and that is within their right. But even if a couple that is just looking to spice things up engages in multiple play partners for an experience, it is a very personal choice and should be discussed at length prior to!

Allow me to make one thing very clear, I love my wife with an intensity that is beyond description and we have a wonderful marriage. I fall in love with her more everyday. This is my solemn word and as such is beyond contestation.

Understand… We are very picky in regards to play and we do not just “whore around”.
There are very few outside of the lifestyle that are aware of our activities as this is a lifestyle that we live privately.
It’s not about sex, or orgies or anything of the sort… For us, we simply allow each other to be who we truly are, away from those that would not understand.

For many of us, myself included, to supress aspects of our nature is extremely difficult, be it Dom or sub. I am an animal by nature… A civilized one, but still very much the Alpha Wolf in the Pack, with my wife, I am allowed to be that in a healthy manner. She is a submissive, and I allow her to express that in a safe environment free from judgement.

As Princess Jenn has stated, we have known each other since we were kids and I have ALWAYS been as I am. Be it genetic or otherwise, I have always been an Alpha as that is part of what makes me who I am. Those that know me are very much aware of this.

And again… The only power I have is that which my wife/slave gives me!

Now, I will turn this blog back over to the princess and observe from the outside!

~Mr. O


Update #3: Responses to some of the comments and questions courtesy of Mr. O

In regard to the question from Avasmommy about what would happen if my wife wanted to opt out – In the event that she were to decide that this was no longer the lifestyle that she wanted to live… It stops, no If’s, and’s or but’s about it! This is again where the communication is key.

Also, I will address the comment regarding being careful what you wish for…

If my wife were to come to me and tell me that she had fallen in love with someone else, than as much as it would crush me, there really is nothing one can do. However, we have had this discussion previously, we are both still very much in love and as she has no desire to play with other men, we are happy! In regards to her taking the kids to another country where the rules are different… We both understand that our children are paramount and regardless of our relationship status, we are good parents and know that the kids need us both. That, and on the lighter side, Jenn can attest to the fact that I am former Military with Special Ops training… It would not be difficult for me to track them down… Call in a few favours… LOL. At any rate… It all boils down to what is best for all parties. That’s the joy of Veto Power.

My wife and I have been together for 11 years and are still going strong.

Phew… Nothing like being proverbially raked across coals!!

~ Mr. O



Part 2 – What a Woman REALLY wants

 Open Yourself to the Possibilities (Relationship Series: Part 1)

Can you put a price on human life?

Evidently yes.  And in Calgary, the nearest major city to us, that price is $4000.  No I’m not even kidding.

This is something out of the movies.  You never really think it happens.  But it does, and more often than we can imagine I suspect.

Bil and I were talking the other day whether you could put a price on human life after it was revealed that a $600,000 ransom was paid to free kidnapped reporter Amanda Lindhout.

This led to the discussion of ‘how much money is just too much’.  If your family member was kidnapped is there a certain amount of money that would just be too much money to pay in ransom?  And if so, does that mean that human life has an actual price?

It’s a scary concept that becomes even more frightening once you have a child of your own.

Would you pay a ransom?  If you do, what does that say to the kidnappers.  By doing so are you encouraging the possible kidnapping of other people?  Or would you care?  Would your only concern be for your family member?  How much money is too much?  Can you put a price on human life?

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