We started with childhood innocence and then we moved to adolescent shame. Now we are getting a little more mature. Since everyone is getting all Halloweenishy, I figured I would, too. So picture two young lovers in the dark one October night. This is what happens the day after at school.
wanting them to see
wanting everyone to see
bright purple hickies on my neck
wanting everyone to see
that someone could want me that much
that someone would leave proof, undisputed
on my neck.
i wasn’t embarrassed
and refused high collars,
wanting everyone to see
those purple circles
where lips met skin
and tasted blood.
Tell me one of your (real or fictional) acts of adolescent rebellion. Or just tell me about how you feel about hickies. 🙂
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“I don’t like it anymore,” my son said, right before he took an enormous bite out of an enormous apple.
He held up one finger to indicate that his mouth was full, a gesture he learned from me.
“This Monkey business. I’ve outgrown it.”
I’ve been waiting for this moment since my son started middle school.
But now that he is finishing his first semester of 7th grade, he has decided that Monkey is no longer a good fit for him.
Forget about the fact that he actually looks exactly like Curious George.
If Curious George had freckles.
Forget about the fact that after he gets a brush cut, his hairline looks exactly like a little baby monkey’s.
Forget about the fact that he is sproingy like a monkey.
The reality is that Monkey is done being Monkey.
“So can I just start calling you by your real name?”
“Noooooo!” my son shrieked in his high-pitched I’m-in-the-midst-of-puberty-and-my-voice-but-my-voice-hasn’t-changed-yet timbre.
“Well, get to thinking,” I told my boy. “I have to call you something.
After he completed three hours of homework — ten algebra problems, a Spanish worksheet on conjugating verbs, some science worksheet on density, mass and volume, a social studies worksheet on Chapter 2, Section 4, and an English thingy where he had to read something and write a response (note: he keeps me out of the English loop) — he went downstairs to practice piano and then returned upstairs to practice for his bar-mitzvah.
Around 6 pm, he put all his books away and wandered into the kitchen where I was making dinner.
“What about tech support?” I asked absently as I popped a black olive in my mouth while pouring marinade over that night’s chicken.
“That’s what you should call me.”
I looked at him blankly.
“You know, for your blog?” He picked up an olive and popped it into his mouth.
“That’s actually pretty good…”
“It’s good because it’s true,” he said.
Little bastard is right. He will always be my little Monkey, but over the last year, our conversations involve my screaming for his assistance because something has happened to my Excel Spread sheet formula, and I don’t know how to fix it. So he fixes it for me. Or I want to do a Power Point presentation, but I don’t know how to set it up. So he sets it up for me. Or I want to change the banner on blog but that involves Gimp and multiple layers, and I don’t know how to do that. So he does it for me. In 6.3 minutes. For years, he has been my IT guy: my fixer, my assistant.
I am starting to think I should pay him.
While I was thinking these things, my 12-year old son said aloud (to absolutely no one): “I will detach your head from your body!”
Looking around the room, I declared, “Wow, you are the King of the non-sequitor.”
“I know,” he smiled. “And yes, I know what a non-sequitor is.”
We both popped olives in our mouths and, as I finished the dinner prep, my son moved to the pantry in search of something that would be ready to eat sooner than the chicken.
My son stuck his head deep inside the icemaker. From the depths of the freezer, I heard my son’s voice. It was deeper than usual. Distorted from being inside the freezer, he sounded like someone else: a man.
“I really want a frozen pretzel,” this man said, “When are we going to get our freezer fixed?”
“As soon as I get some.”
“Some what?” he turned to look at me, 12-years old again.
I smiled and popped another olive in my mouth, held up my finger and made him wait.
What nicknames did you call your children? Have they changed over the years? What little changes have signaled your child is growing up?
Recently I read one of the most amazing (and terrifying) blog entries called “Memories of a Bullied Kid,” on bullying from single dad laughing, a man who reflects back on a time in his life where he says he was systematically terrorized for years – but that he never said anything to anyone – except once. And he went further to report that when he reported the bullying, things got worse for him. Afterwards, he remained silent and endured the torture for over a decade. With so many students killing themselves these days, it amazes me that he is alive to tell the tale.
In the all the bullying literature that is out there, there is one piece of the puzzle that hasn’t been particularly well documented, and so I’m putting out there. Guess what? Sometimes parents of bullies are proud that their children are bullies. I have heard parents admit they would rather have their children be the ones “standing up for themselves” than the ones being bullied: that they have actually encouraged their children to get physical first, so that they are never made targets themselves. For me, this is the ugliest, darkest side to parenting.
Having been a teacher for 20 years now, and a parent for 11, I see that there is precious little time for elementary school to get to know each other at school. I know this because at the end of their 5th grade year, my son (and one friend) could not identify several of the children in their own class.
“I don’t know his name,” my son admitted.
His friend, who happened to be over that day shrugged: “Me either.”
It was unbelievable to me that my child and his friend could spend an entire year with the same people day in and day out and not know everyone’s first and last names, perhaps some tidbit of personal information.
I guess the sense of community has fallen out of the curriculum. Children are no longer taught to be good citizens, the ethics of being good people. The game is all about getting ahead, getting into the best schools — and kids learn early on that they may need to stomp on a few folks to get there. And I am sad to report that many parents encourage this type of aggressive, mean-spirited competition in athletics and academics. And meanwhile everyone is surprised that bullying in on this rise? Shocked when there is another incident reported, this time more gruesome than the last?
I never thought about college until 11th grade. Now, parents discuss college with their 1st graders. That’s a lot of pressure to put on children. When adults are stressed, they can go for a run, swim a few laps, take a yoga class. Well, kids get stressed out, too. But sometimes their stress comes out less constructively. So if you don’t even know all the kids in your class . . . well, why not pick on her? She’s weird. Or him? He’s quiet. Or, if you are really sneaky, get someone else to do it for you?
Once learning their children have been acting as bullies, I’m always amazed at how unapologetic parents are. When I hear of kids who have been bullied and that some type of administrative action has taken place – even suspensions – where the school has agreed a particular child had overstepped too many times with too many kids – I am always shocked that part of the restitution never includes a written apology from the bully. No-one ever makes the offending kid write a note to the person he has been kicking around.
If my child intentionally (or unintentionally) hurt someone, he’d either be over at that kid’s house apologizing in person or he’d be writing letters: to the kid he hurt, to the principal (indicating that he understood the infraction), to the parents of the bullied child explicating in essay form precisely what type of punishment(s) he would be receiving at home that would befit his behavior at school.
Apparently, most parents spend more time worrying about their child getting bullied than about their child being a bully. As a result, when they find out their child is bullying others, it takes them by surprise and they don’t know how to handle it.
What would you do if you found out your child was a bully? How would that conversation go? Would you be proud or horrified?
I have been hearing more and more about kids getting together en masse for coed sleepovers. Some parents have been very positive about these group adventures in nocturnal cohabitation and insist there is little to worry about — the kids are all just friends, no one is drinking or doing drugs or hooking up, that the kids just like to “hang out together” in their jammies; sometimes they even text while sitting next to each other on the couch!
Think I’m making this up? Amy Dickinson from Time.com wrote an article back in 2001 about a 17-year old boy who was able to persuade his parents to hold his first coed sleepover. The family eventually hosted three coed parties with 20 to 30 guests–one on New Year’s Eve! Dickinson contends that the boy and his father “established very sound party-giving techniques that [she] believes would benefit any parents who are thinking of having or letting their teen attend such an event.” And then she lists the guidelines.
More recently (in April 2010), journalist Amanda Morin wrote an article called “Losing Sleep Over Coed Sleepovers” in which she cites Dr. Linda Sonna, a psychologist and author of 10 parenting books, including The Everything Parenting a Teenager Book. Sonna says increasing numbers of parents say their teens want to attend coed teen slumber parties. For many parents, there’s no discussion about it – coed sleepovers are out of the question. For other parents whose teens who are hosting and attending these boy-girl events, it’s merely a sign of the times, a natural extension of the ever-expanding platonic relationships between the sexes. Some parents are clueless; their child simply tells them he/she is going to sleep at a friend’s house, but the parents never call to check in with the host parents, so they have no idea the event is coed.
How do you feel about group, coed sleepovers; they seem to be the new “cool” thing? Yay or nay? When would you allow your child to have someone of the opposite sex sleep at your house? Could they share a room? A bed? What about same-sex sleepovers? Do you let kids sleep in the same bed?
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