Posted in audience participation, know better do better, mindset, parenting, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Boys will be boys

If we spent as much energy teaching our sons as we do worrying about our daughters, we wouldn’t need to worry so much about our daughters.

“Boys will be boys” is a cop-out. It does a disservice to all people. To girls and women, obviously, because it leads to a society where we live in perpetual legitimate fear of violence. But also to boys and men, because it dismisses them as unable to be civilized.

While we’re here… I hate the “dad’s at home with a shotgun” mentality to girls dating. Instead of being a threatening jerk to everyone, teach your daughter how to stand up for herself.

And again, teach your boys about boundaries.

Actually, let’s teach everyone about boundaries. And consent.

There are sex ed programs that go in depth into consent. Did yours? Mine sure didn’t. (Of course, my teacher also couldn’t say “masturbate” without blushing.) At least it wasn’t abstinence only.

I’m on a tangent.

Teach your children how to respect boundaries and how to take care of themselves. Model behaviors you want them to emulate. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t get the results you want most of the time.

Expect better of your boys. Talk to them at least as much as you do to your girls. We’ll all be better for it.

Posted in audience participation, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, physical health, socializing, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Why it’s hard

We have too much physical stuff, too much emotional stuff, too much junk to eat, not enough exercise or sleep or meaningful connections with people.


Society values and promotes

  • being busy
  • being stressed
  • being underslept
  • fast food
  • large portions
  • cheap everything
  • convenient (to accommodate busy)
  • sitting
  • reactive medicine over preventative
  • pills over natural
  • social isolation

But we are society. It’s not an “other” thing. It is us.

We can push back. We can vote with our dollars (and with our votes). We can choose to swim upstream. We can choose what we buy and what we eat and how we spend time and with whom we spend time. We can choose what we say yes to and what we reject.

Our current path is not sustainable.

Who’s in?

Posted in differences, education, meandering, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, vulnerability

School, escapism, perfectionism

Growing up, the first day of school was always so exciting. I always had a new outfit. Often a new backpack or lunch box. I had friends at school. I got along well with most of my teachers, so that was never a worry for me. I wasn’t a wiggly kid and had no trouble sitting still in my seat. I was a quiet kid, so I didn’t get in trouble for talking.

Of course, those circumstances aren’t true for all kids. Both of the schools where I teach are uniform schools, so best case scenario is some new uniform components and maybe new shoes. Not everyone has friends at school, and not everyone gets along with their teachers. Lots of kids are wiggly (and kids should be—I don’t think it was inherently good that I wasn’t) and aren’t given ample opportunity not to be.

What I have in common with many of them is that school is an escape. Some kids get consistency of people, of schedule, of rules at school (but not at home). Some get praise at school (but not at home; this was me). Some get food at school (but not at home).

At school, I was the perfect student. At home, I was a scapegoat.

We talked recently in a training about how perfectionism is, for some people, a means of dealing with trauma. Relentless control. Paralyzing fear of failure. And, because school is constructed the way it is, the perfectionism is often praised. Seen as the ideal.

I was the perfect student. Dealing with trauma.

It took decades before I learned that perfectionism was a coping mechanism and shed some of it. (Sometimes it’s useful, and in high-stakes pursuits, like surgery, building medical devices, constructing airplanes and space shuttles, and so on, we should definitely keep perfectionism on hand in large quantity. Choosing perfection versus psychologically needing perfection. They’re different.)

I can make a slide presentation and choose the colors, style, font that are good enough instead of poring over the options for hours.

I can draw flashcards for my students and not need to redo the ones that aren’t to spec.

Letting go of some perfectionism has given me time and reduced stress.

I wonder, if a teacher knew that about me (or knew it about psychology and thus suspected it about me), would my path have been different? Would I have been able to learn how to be OK with mistakes in a place where being the ideal was my lifeblood?

I don’t know. But I’m glad I figured it out eventually anyway.

We’ve been in school less than a week and I’ve already told all of my classes at least once that we’re going to make mistakes here, and it’s OK, it’s expected, it will be often, and we need to be OK with making mistakes ourselves and with other people making mistakes.

Hopefully, someone who needs to hear that a little louder will take it to heart … even if it’s only in my classroom.

Posted in ebb & flow, hope, know better do better, mindset, vulnerability

The Liberty Bell

lib•er•ty (Merriam Webster)

the quality or state of being free:

  1. the power to do as one pleases
  2. freedom from physical restraint
  3. freedom from arbitrary or despotic control
  4. the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges
  5. the power of choice


During our trip, we spent a just few hours in Philadelphia. We’d hoped to go to Independence Hall. It was sold out for the day, but we did get to see the Liberty Bell.

As I recall, when I was a kid, the bell was just kind of there, in a tiny building that you could just walk into. Now there are long lines outside of a large building full of history.

I’ll be honest: while The Kid and The Climbing Daddy were excited about going to see the Liberty, Bell, I wasn’t. But I learned some interesting things about it. Did I learn them before and forget them? Or did I not learn them before?

First, while we were waiting in line, I saw this quote engraved on the side of a building across the way:

Happily, the Government of the United States … gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.

-George Washington, 1790


As we looked to that building in the distance, in front of us was a memorial to slaves, along with a less sugar-coated telling of their history than we were fed as kids.

The juxtaposition was jarring and sad. Our blindness to our mistreatment of others goes back to our earliest days. It’s embedded in our roots.

Sorry, George. You did some amazing things, and for those, you deserve credit and praise. But we have always sanctioned bigotry and assisted persecution (you owned slaves! your wife couldn’t vote or own land!) and continue to do so today.

As we continued into the building (hooray for climate control!), we read about the history of the bell, saw photos of xrays of it, saw tchotchktes of it.

Until the 1830s, it was the State House Bell. (All further quotes are from the exhibits in the Liberty Bell Center.)

Abolitionists in the 1830s gave the State House Bell a new name, Liberty Bell, recognizing the contradiction between the ideals of the Revolution and the reality of more than four million enslaved people.

I had no idea! People who realized we could do better renamed this icon. Its only name most of us know was assigned as part of the abolitionist movement! (I suspect there are people today who would insist it have its name returned to the State House Bell if they knew…)

Sadly, while slavery was ended, liberty is hardly what black folks enjoyed.

Following the Civil War, the Liberty Bell became a symbol of national reunification at the same time that civil rights were systematically denied to people based on the color of their skin.

The portion of the placard under that quote went on to clarify that “national reunification” was from a white perspective.

As the Liberty Bell increased in popularity as a symbol of freedom and liberty for white Americans during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, it contrasted with the unrealized ideals of African Americans, Native Americans, other ethnic groups and women. While the Bell traveled the nation as a symbol of liberty, intermittent race riots, lynchings, and Indian wars presented an alternative picture of freedom denied.

At this point, I say: we know better. We can do better. We can do better for people of color (any color!). We can do better for women. We can do better for immigrants (regardless their status). Recognize that our system has benefitted you at the expense of others and work to fix it. No guilt, no shame (you didn’t build it!), just knowledge.

The rising tide raises all boats.

Posted in connections, know better do better, mindset, parenting, vulnerability

Dig around for underlying reasons

The Kid was in a bad mood this weekend. Easy to inadvertently poke without any discernible reason.

Sunday night, after another large incident over a benign thing, the three of us sat down and had a conversation to try to figure out what was actually going on.

Turns out, he had read something in one of his books a few days prior that really bothered him and he had been ruminating about it all weekend.

Once we talked through the stuff in the book, he felt much better and went back to being his usual self.

(Also, the stuff in the book was in no way something that he “should” have worried about, but we had a gentle conversation instead of just telling him he shouldn’t be worried, or “I’ll give you something to cry about,” or “man up,” and on and on. It’s important for kids—for people—to know that they’re safe and they’re not going to be dismissed if they are vulnerable with you. Talking about fears is vulnerable.)

A friend and I had a conversation about an incident with her kid. The kid came home from school cranky and withdrew. It took several hours before the kid talked about it; it was concealed simply by cranky and withdrawn behavior.

Cranky and withdrawn behavior is easy to see as “that person is being a jerk.” Especially if the person is an age where sulking is expected.

We build bridges in these situations when we meet the cranky (or angry, or withdrawn) person with love.

We sat down with The Kid, first with him on The Climbing Daddy’s lap and later on mine. We talked calmly, we expressed concern, we let him write things down when he wasn’t comfortable talking. And we were patient in both his grossly unfounded fears and the amount of time it took to work through it. (And we suggested, since he agreed that talking helped, that he volunteer next time to talk about things that worry him instead of steeping in them for days.)

My friend met her kid with love. Went and snuggled. At first she was rejected, but instead of leaving, she stayed. The walls came down and the tearful story came out.

Back in the day, the first really big argument between The Climbing Daddy and I wasn’t really about what we were arguing about. The incident had strong ties to underlying things, and those were the things we needed to have a conversation about, instead of an argument about the surface stuff.

I’m 100% certain that that wasn’t the only argument for which that was true. Does it sound familiar to you?

In that case, meeting the anger with affection would have both calmed the anger and gotten to the heart of the problem. (I don’t fault him for not doing that, in part because that’s not how most people react most of the time, and in part because I was pushing his buttons just as well as he was pushing mine. But we’re getting better at it. Especially as we have more practice with The Kid.)

Anger and withdrawal are defense mechanisms, fueled by anger in return. See if you can diffuse them with love.