You throw like a girl…

I originally posted this piece in November of 2011. I am re-running it after seeing this awsome commercial air during the Super Bowl. May it change the way we talk to boys and girls.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs

What does that mean? Is the throw not far enough, fast enough? Is it exacted with a limp wrist, an unfinished follow through? Whatever it means, I don’t think it is meant to flatter the recipient.

My son played little league. Somewhere in the midst of Landon’s first season I concluded little league is where dads work out their own childhood sports trauma.  Either the bully is shouting insults to whomever he wants to feel bigger than-usually the coach or the umpire but in some cases, his son, or the nerd dad who is desperately yelling batting, throwing, running, sliding, or catching advise so his son won’t be a nerd too. It was disturbing to sit on those bleachers with those dads.

Then there are the coaches. Some coach’s coach for the love of the game and they like kids. Some coaches are dads working out their stuff, but with a coaches hat on. It seemed, however, that both types of coaches yelled, “YOU THROW LIKE A GIRL!” to some unsuspecting boy who had just attempted, but failed, to get the runner out at first base. I countered by yelling, “GOOD TRY!” I don’t think it helped the kid in question.

Perhaps the intention for yelling this statement was to stimulate the secretion of testosterone in the 6,7,8 year old boy, making them tougher so they could throw better. I don’t think it worked. What I noticed was the “throws like a girl” player became a little more tentative in his movements and in the game. He looked to me like he wanted to be smaller. Maybe he did.

As a mom-once a girl-sitting in the stands, with a daughter-at that time, still a girl-I had a reaction to the thrown insult (no pun intended) which was amplified if my son was the object of the coaches idiocy. I looked around the stands at the other moms and dads certain I would see the same outrage on their faces. I didn’t. In some cases I think they were just glad it wasn’t said to their son. I wondered what the young sisters of these players felt when throwing like a girl was used as an insult.

I remember being a junior in a high school gym class. I was walking across the gym toward the locker room in my one piece, blue and white striped jersey gym suit when I over heard Dena colluding with the “pretty, popular girls” that they should nominate me for homecoming queen. They all laughed. I knew what they meant and it wasn’t kind. I wanted to disappear. That last stretch to the locker room door was forever.

In my sophomore year at the University of Delaware, the Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity chose me as their homecoming queen. This put me in U of D’s race for the coronation of their queen. A fraternity brother met up with me as I crossed campus headed to class to tell me the good news.

I immediately referenced my high school gym trauma and believed this was another cruel joke. A repeat of 1975. My self image was based on the belief that the possibility of MEEE being homecoming queen was a laughable impossibility. I told my him how hurt I was, what a mean joke and limped away. I remember the look on his face.

Later, when I saw my picture in the university paper, amongst all the other “pretty, popular girls,” I realized it wasn’t a joke. Now his look of bewilderment made sense. This contradicted my long held belief of myself.

I needed to make a choice. What/who was I going to believe? Who was I going to see when I looked in the mirror? I picked. I decided to let go of the self deprecating messages I referenced to remind me of my place. I practiced (I am still practicing) letting go of my self judgement by gathering new data. I listened to others and believed them when they told me I was attractive.  I decided if I am going to believe someone, I might as well believe the people that say kind words. Right? It’s amazing how difficult that can be to do.

All of this works most of the time. But when I am particularly insecure or vulnerable I feel myself back in that high school locker room getting smaller and smaller. This is when I have to be kind to myself, surround my self with people that love me and assure that 17 year old that there is so much more to her than her looks.

I didn’t win the homecoming queen crown. It was enough to be nominated (not really, I am just saying that).

What does that mean? Is the throw not far enough, fast enough? Is it exacted with a limp wrist, an unfinished follow through? Whatever it means, I don’t think it is meant to flatter the recipient.

My son played little league. Somewhere in the midst of Landon’s first season I concluded little league is where dads work out their own childhood sports trauma.  Either the bully is shouting insults to whomever he wants to feel bigger than-usually the coach or the umpire but in some cases, his son, or the nerd dad who is desperately yelling batting, throwing, running, sliding, or catching advise so his son won’t be a nerd too. It was disturbing to sit on those bleachers with those dads.

Then there are the coaches. Some coach’s coach for the love of the game and they like kids. Some coaches are dads working out their stuff, but with a coaches hat on. It seemed, however, that both types of coaches yelled, “YOU THROW LIKE A GIRL!” to some unsuspecting boy who had just attempted, but failed, to get the runner out at first base. I countered by yelling, “GOOD TRY!” I don’t think it helped the kid in question.

Perhaps the intention for yelling this statement was to stimulate the secretion of testosterone in the 6,7,8 year old boy, making them tougher so they could throw better. I don’t think it worked. What I noticed was the “throws like a girl” player became a little more tentative in his movements and in the game. He looked to me like he wanted to be smaller. Maybe he did.

As a mom-once a girl-sitting in the stands, with a daughter-at that time, still a girl-I had a reaction to the thrown insult (no pun intended) which was amplified if my son was the object of the coaches idiocy. I looked around the stands at the other moms and dads certain I would see the same outrage on their faces. I didn’t. In some cases I think they were just glad it wasn’t said to their son. I wondered what the young sisters of these players felt when throwing like a girl was used as an insult.

I remember being a junior in a high school gym class. I was walking across the gym toward the locker room in my one piece, blue and white striped jersey gym suit when I over heard Dena colluding with the “pretty, popular girls” that they should nominate me for homecoming queen. They all laughed. I knew what they meant and it wasn’t kind. I wanted to disappear. That last stretch to the locker room door was forever.

In my sophomore year at the University of Delaware, the Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity chose me as their homecoming queen. This put me in U of D’s race for the coronation of their queen. A fraternity brother met up with me as I crossed campus headed to class to tell me the good news.

I immediately referenced my high school gym trauma and believed this was another cruel joke. A repeat of 1975. My self image was based on the belief that the possibility of MEEE being homecoming queen was a laughable impossibility. I told my him how hurt I was, what a mean joke and limped away. I remember the look on his face.

Later, when I saw my picture in the university paper, amongst all the other “pretty, popular girls,” I realized it wasn’t a joke. Now his look of bewilderment made sense. This contradicted my long held belief of myself.

I needed to make a choice. What/who was I going to believe? Who was I going to see when I looked in the mirror? I picked. I decided to let go of the self deprecating messages I referenced to remind me of my place. I practiced (I am still practicing) letting go of my self judgement by gathering new data. I listened to others and believed them when they told me I was attractive.  I decided if I am going to believe someone, I might as well believe the people that say kind words. Right? It’s amazing how difficult that can be to do.

All of this works most of the time. But when I am particularly insecure or vulnerable I feel myself back in that high school locker room getting smaller and smaller. This is when I have to be kind to myself, surround my self with people that love me and assure that 17 year old that there is so much more to her than her looks.

XO

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P.S. I didn’t win the homecoming queen crown. It was enough to be nominated (not really, I am just saying that).

 

You call me a Bitch…like it’s a bad thing…

27 years ago, in the Chicago Airport, I wanted to get home to my 6 month old son. My X and I were on a layover gone bad. The ticket agent informed us that we were not leaving any time soon since the plane to Pittsburgh was indeterminately delayed. This was not the answer I wanted to hear. I needed to get home to Landon.

I instinctively pulled myself up to my full 5-feet-10-inch height and leaned over the counter, closing the distance between myself and this unsuspecting man’s face. I informed him, in a dangerously quiet voice, tears in my eyes, that I had a son I needed to get home to and I WOULD be leaving soon. Very soon. And he was going to make it happen.

He did. He found a flight that got us home late that evening. Maybe he was glad to get me out of there. Maybe he was a dad and understood my panic. Either way he sent me home.

My X, Landon’s father, called me a Bitch for speaking to the ticket agent that way. I was infuriated by his lack of support that expressed itself in his name calling. I was also a bit ashamed of myself for acting badly to that nice man behind the ticket counter.

Two years later, when our son had a febrile seizure, the doctors insisted on doing a spinal tap. Hearing Landon’s terrified screams from the procedure room, as he was being held down by a team of nurses, I got-in-the face of another man, the doctor. Holding his white jacket lapels–mostly to steady my weak knees, I breathlessly asked if the spinal tap was absolutely necessary. He said it was. My X later told me I was (again) being a Bitch.

I did not intentionally try to be the B word. I knew the rule; If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. People wouldn’t like me if I was not nice. I was clearly aware, thanks to my moms early training, that it was my job to keep everyone happy-especially her. So I learned the act of pleasantness.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of one of my favorite books, Women Who Run with the Wolves, tells the story of being asked why she had to get so loud and angry when something negatively impacted her. She responded along the lines of, “Well, you don’t hear me when I am quiet.”

Why does an assertive woman get called a bitch? Why is standing my ground considered bitchiness?

When I reached my mid 30’s something began to change inside of me. I stopped feeling guilty for my edginess. In fact, I rather began to enjoy it. I liked speaking up, even if the other person didn’t like what I said. I didn’t stop being kind. I did stop being nice. There is a difference.

Several years into this transformation my X, once again, called me a Bitch. I don’t remember for what. I do remember thanking him for the compliment; explaining that I had been working very hard to develop this skill and I was glad he had noticed.

The world needs more bitchy women.

: )
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Sorry this is late, I was at a wedding….

How did I get old enough to have a son getting married? 00000010

How did he get old enough to be getting married?

I can’t say, exactly, how I feel about my oldest tying the knot — bittersweet is the first layer, but there is weeping underneath –I can tell you that our life together is flashing before my eyes, in a good way.

I remember the day after he was born. It was when moms still got a 3 day hospital stay and if you paid for it, a candle lit dinner for two. It was a fair attempt at reestablishing romance, but the donut I sat on was a physical reminder that I was out of commission for a while. Landon and I were alone in our room. I was holding him against me, nuzzling him. Out of the blue he lifted his head away from my chest — I didn’t think new borns could do that — and looked me straight in the eye. In that instant I knew we were in this together. His eyes said, “Here we go mom’”

A couple of nights ago I sat on the deck, alone in the dark, looking at the stars, missing Landon’s youth and my mothering of him. He was a sweetheart and he was a hand full. He took life at full speed, which meant several trips to the ER, firemen pulling him out of a mucky swamp sink hole before hypothermia set in, and looking out my kitchen window one winter afternoon to see a car fly pass with him being pulled behind it on ski’s.

Still, today, I hear stories. He and Jena will decide to tell me about-the-time-when…they pulled the mattress off the spare-room bed into the living room, piled all the couch cushions on top of it, then leapt over the loft railing onto soft heap below. Or when he and his friends jumped, repeatedly, over a bonfire they started in the driveway. Or when he took my SUV off-road. Or…the stories go one and on…

As my first born, most everything I did was an experiment. We were learning together. I taught him know what he felt, what he wanted and to speak up for both. I remember at one particularly difficult stage in his adolescence rethinking my approach, realizing there may be something to be said for the adages, children should be seen and not heard and because I said so…As a result of my parenting style, he could argue like a lawyer. We often thought he would choose that profession. He could out-argue me. And often did. I remember walking away wondering how I ended up saying yes when I was sure I meant no.

And he was a sweetheart.

He struggled with dyslexia and a gluten intolerance — before gluten free was even a term. Together we worked creatively to deal with these issues and they were very hard on him. My heart often broke watching him find his way. I remember one evening, when he was in the 3rd grade, sitting together on the edge of my bed, holding him after a particularly hard day at school, assuring him that it would get better and that I would not let him do it alone.

If I sum up how I mothered it would be that I had my kid’s backs. I read, as a young mom, that my job was to provide a safe harbor for them. That the world was going to beat them up, and they would need a place/person that would provide sanctuary. That was always my guiding principle. I hope they felt that.

So on his wedding day, as we had a moment alone, waiting for all the guests to be seated, I hugged him hard, pulled my head away from his chest, looked him in the eye and said, “Here you go Sweetheart. You have everything you need.”
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