Yes All Women-Conversations With A Teenaged Male

I’ve been doing a lot of reading since the UCSB shooting. I have of course read a lot of tweets, as I mentioned, but I have also read a lot of stories on blogs. I have read a lot of columns and articles. I have seen very different thought processes, very different opinions, very different judgements. I have seen lots of accusations of generalization and wrong placed blame. I have been completely and utterly flabbergasted by at least one of them and thankfully my handy dandy unfollow button was right there when I needed it. I have posted a couple of my stories. I have also been doing a lot of talking. I have talked to the men in my life about what I am involved in, because that’s what you do, but also because it’s important that THEY know.

This morning, instead of talking, I did some questioning and then a whole lot of listening.

Sprog and I had a conversation, that started off having absolutely nothing to do with this. We found out this morning that they dropped his math class yesterday, the one he is supposed to start on Monday. MONDAY. I only found out because I went into his account pay for his book rental and noticed one class on his schedule. Funny, my credit card was surely charged for 2. He checked his email, nothing. I finally found the notification buried in his account but he likely would’ve shown up there on Monday to an empty room had I not waited to pay for his books until this week. There is no other class offered at his campus in the times we need. So we had to make a quick decision as to how to handle this situation and as is our way, one conversation piggy backs into many other things.

We talked about a situation with his friend that is frustrating all of us. We talked about his frustrations here at home and how he reacts to them. How a different tac in talking to us might get him better results. We talked about being more understanding that OTHERS are frustrated and dealing with things too and if you know that you are reactionary, might you not offer them the same leeway? Because if you tell me you snapped like that because you are mad at something else but then can’t accept when someone else is probably doing the same thing? Nope. That isn’t going to work for any of us. Earlier this week I was tweeting about him driving me to sigh so deep it went all the way to my toes.

At one point after we had hashed out any number of issues, I asked him from a teenage boy perspective why he thinks this sort of thing happens, why he thinks we have a rape culture and about being “manly”. Here are some of his observations and opinions (I’ll add where I asked additional questions in italics):

-Here’s what I think it is, at least as far as “No Means No” when I was a kid, you told me No, right? And when you told me No, you meant NO. I couldn’t weasel my way out of it, I couldn’t push back on it, NO was NO and that was that. In my head it set a boundary and an understanding that once a boundary is set, I don’t cross it. So these kids that have parents that tell them No but then give in, or let them get away with it? It puts in their mind that No never means No because they are eventually going to get their way. Because they’ve always gotten their way and even when they do something wrong, they aren’t really going to get into trouble for it, so who cares. It’s like why I still tell you when I’ve done something I know you aren’t going to be happy with and my friends are like DUDE SHUT UP SHE WON’T KNOW and yet I tell you anyway. I mean yeah we fight and have fought and yeah it sucks to have rules and stuff but you need them.

-They probably also have parents that were never really THERE for them. That never really took the time to make sure what they were doing, who they were hanging out with, who they were/are. All the stuff that makes me crazy but is also really good for me. I know you are ALWAYS there for me. I know if I need help, you’ll get it for me. I know you’ll try. Like I have people that will never give up on me. You have to have compassion.

-And we have people like Rick Ross, that has a song about slipping drugs in a girls drink and raping her, like it’s a good thing, like he’s proud of himself. Not cool. I was so happy when Reebok yanked their endorsement money from him. He’s all like I love those Reeboks though and they’re like you’re a rapist, no money for you.

-And that whole “but she was wearing” thing? That’s so stupid. You can’t judge people by what they have on the outside or how they like to dress. People would look at me and think I’m a druggie or a dirtbag. Am I either of those things? No. It’s not about that.

But what about those people that say she was asking for it? Like in her body language.
-Please. That’s ridiculous. No one is going to ASK for that. You can’t ASK for someone to do something AGAINST YOUR WILL. Stupid.

-And how can you ASK for something if you are passed out or drugged or drunk? Stupid. Stupid.

-And these guys that do that? That drug a girl and take advantage of her and then brag about it? Ooohh let me have mad respect for the way that you actually had to TRY to get that girl, that you had to have GAME, that you had to CARE for a second, oh wait, that’s right you did none of those things. What are you bragging about again? Being trash? Got it.

What about people that think it’s because boys are raised to be aggressive, like through sports or whatever
-Yeah, well, that’s about the parents wanting to mold something into who they never were or couldn’t be. Like all these dads that want their sons to do the glory days they never got FOR THEM. You can’t live through your kids, they have to live their lives.

What about the outside influences of the media and celebrity and stuff. Like this is what a man is, this is what a woman should try to be. People blame a lot of stuff on that
-True and there’s a lot of stuff out there but if that’s all there was, I wouldn’t have long hair, I wouldn’t wear my beanie. I would be trying to be some Abercrombie dude to get all the chicks, right? You taught me to be strong and be myself. Pressing up on someone that isn’t into you, weak.

-And look, I’m playing a violent video game right now, does that mean I’m violent? No. IT’S A GAME. Watch. Oh look I’m running from the cops, now they are probably going to shoot me in the back. Yep. I’m dead. Wait for it. Oh hey, look I’m alive again and it only cost me $5000 because that’s OBVIOUSLY going to work in real life?

-I think a lot of kids just don’t know what the world is actually like, like don’t even get me started on what’s happening in Russia right now. You want to bitch and cry because you don’t have the latest phone or new shoes or your mom took away your game? People have worse problems.

Um. You cried when I took away your game. You bitched when you got grounded sir
-Well yeah, I was a little kid, that’s different. You can’t say you’re grown and act like baby that didn’t get their way all the time.

I am always proud of my son but some days he really blows me away.

Mom Guilt

Date: New Year’s Eve.

Players: Sprog, Sprog’s BFF (Bubbles, not his real name but what I call him), Mom (me), Willy, Mom (Linda, aka my stand in mom), Candy, Connor

Scene: The evening starts with dinner plans with the fam: Mom, Connor and Candy. Sprog tells me as we are getting ready to leave that he and Bubbles are going to hang out with a friend instead. I ask if it’s a party, he says no. We head off without him, trusting that it’s not a party but I gave him the raised eyebrow of doubt and commanded that he keep me informed of where he was as per usual. At dinner Connor was disappointed at no Sprog, he was even more disappointed at the possibility of no Sprog AT ALL for the evening. We promised Uncle Willy would step in and do fireworks and that placated somewhat. After a freezing cold run to witness the most insane Christmas light display ever (complete with multiple houses synchronized to music and FLAMES) we were back at mom’s starting to snack and watching Percy Jackson when my phone received a text.

Sprog: You poppin fireworks?

Me: Not yet, y’all coming over?

Sprog: I am, they are hittin up a party

At this point I rang him up to find out what was going on. Turns out he was still at home but they (Bubbles, this other friend and Sprog) had been invited to a party but as it involved underage drinking, Sprog opted out and was coming to us instead. I was AMAZED. I mean, this wasn’t the first underage drinking party he had opted out of but I sorta figured that once he hit 18 and was a “college man” or a “working man” that would change.

When he got to mom’s I hugged him and thanked him for making a good decision. He shrugged and said that he wouldn’t be drinking anyway but maybe it wasn’t a good decision because he probably should’ve gone to be a designated driver but he knew I’d be happier if he was safe.

Willy offered him a bit of his beer for the toast, he tasted it and then said it was gross but then mixed it with Mountain Dew and declared it much better (HORK)

I suggested the boys go buy fireworks and my nephew was STOKED. He refused his mother going with and was THRILLED it was just “the guys”.

The guys then lit a bunch of fireworks and ate a bunch of snacks. My nephew got to do his own roman candles for the first time and declared he was now A MAN. They all had fun. Around 1 am, Sprog decided he should leave so he’d be avail to pick up his friends and give them a ride home.

We got home around 2 to find Sprog alone and upset. Apparently Bubbles went to another friend’s house and instead of inviting Sprog along he expecting him to just hang at our house until whenever waiting for his call to be picked up. Sprog was livid and hurt. I instantly had mom guilt over him not going to the party, over him not having a huge amount of friends. That maybe I raised him to be “too good” that if he was more of a fuck up he wouldn’t be so lonely. Which, what a stupid thing to worry over, right? But I DO. I am so lucky he’s such a fantastic kid but I worry for him being alone so much. He has ONE friend pretty much. He’s well liked by a lot, he’s despised (for no explainable reason) by a lot, but if Bubbles is busy? He’s on his own and I know his loneliness. I KNOW that feeling and I hate it for him. So it seems really counterintuitive to wish that he was at a party where people would be doing dumb things and where he possibly could be tempted to do dumb things too…I just hate to see him sad. I hate to see him upset. Meanwhile, Sprog is ranting to me about Bubbles and how he had just used $145 of his Christmas cash to pay for Bubbles car to get towed. How we feed him most days, how he sleeps in our house, how Sprog is driving him too and from school while his car is being fixed, how this is the only friend that has ever had his mom’s cell phone number (and uses it) and if this is how he’s going to be repaid? He’d rather have no friends than bad friends. He told Bubbles to just stay there, he wouldn’t be coming to pick him up.

They talked late the next day and Bubbles apologized to Sprog for his behavior. He also explained that the second house they went to belonged to a kid that apparently hates my son, for no explained reason (I personally think it’s because Sprog doesn’t drink and this asshole is the reason Bubbles did on a school trip and wound up in alternative school his senior year) and didn’t want Sprog at his house. Bubbles has also paid Sprog back the money he borrowed in full. He’s now back basically living at our house again.

Y’all. My son is amazing to me. He’s so strong. He’s so generous. He’s so caring. He’s so sensitive and I am so lucky to have him. My heart hurts when he hurts but we are so alike. I am so familiar with feeling used. I am so familiar with not being everyone’s cup of tea. I am so familiar with removing myself from friendships that are toxic or from group dynamics because one person in the group doesn’t like me. It SUCKS so hard. Sometimes, I feel like somehow I have rubbed off on him, that somehow I sent him on my path.

I feel guilty.

Life experiments

Sprog is struggling with how fast life happens as a teenager into adulthood. He can’t believe that he “just” graduated and has already been through a semester of community college. Note I didn’t say completed or passed with that semester because he didn’t. I’d like to be furious about that because I never even got the chance at any college and here he is squandering his but we had realistic expectations going in that this would likely happen. School has always been like pulling teeth with him and even though it greatly frustrates and disappoints me? I’m not shocked. We committed to paying for a year of him at any school to figure shit out and we did that knowing this was a possible outcome.

He has always had to do things the hard way, figure things out himself, he can never just take our word for things, so here we are. He hasn’t registered for next semester. He hasn’t researched the automotive school he said he thought he’d rather go to and instead he’s busting his ass in a kitchen.

He got this job via his BFF who is in automotive school 5 days a week, but works as a food runner/busser. Since Sprog took culinary in high school and is state certified in food safety and kitchens, they hired him in the kitchen, he gets two dollars more an hour but it’s much harder work. The place he works is a hipster hot dog place that started as a food truck but grew so quick they went brick and mortar. Now? They are growing even faster. They were recently named as #5 in a top 10 best new food places in Houston. Sprog originally had a two day a week schedule, currently it’s always 3 and most times they want him for 4. He gets yelled at a lot. He doesn’t do well with yelling but it’s a kitchen and when you’re in the weeds? Yelling happens. When you grow that fast? Stress happens.

He’s having to toughen up and we talk things out every night when he gets out of work. I think that even though this wasn’t what we chose for him, it’s going to be good to open his eyes. It’s good that he learns to get a thicker skin, to move quicker, to see what hard work is. We can tell him how we struggled back in our day but he always has to see things for himself, do things for himself. Maybe it will make him want college. Maybe it will make him want to be a Chef, who knows.

Friendship in the time of the internet

Sprog has really been struggling with friends, or rather the lack there of, his high school years and especially this past year. We’ve had many, many conversations about this topic and my heart breaks for him. I annoy him with my unfailing conviction that it’s not him* but something else. He thinks back on the early years when he had to go to someone’s house to ask if they could play or hang out. When they actually did play or hang out. When things were simpler…easier. He’s sad. He’s lonely. He’s not alone. It’s so hard to be strong for him when I am going through the same thing at the same time but I try to point out how easy it is to get lost in the social media shuffle. So many people have amassed great numbers of “friends” online that maybe it’s just easy to not see people anymore. Comments get missed. Right? Or at least that’s what I tell him and frankly tell myself, because when you are the type of person to notice things? It’s hard not to see. It’s hard not to see that you weren’t invited to things when multiple pictures are posted and people are tagged so that it shows up all over your news feeds or your Instagram feeds and then those included people comment or post pictures so it just keeps showing up? Or people post that they are “so bored” and yet not so bored as to contact you to hang out? “Because I’m SO AWFUL that you’d rather be bored than hang out with me?” How do I answer that? With a resounding, “Babe, of course you aren’t awful”. But, obvs it keeps happening, so he’s not really listening to me anymore.

So I push him to maybe contact them. I ask him what he’s doing to reach out to people. I ask him what they talk about, what he texts about when he texts them. I ask him what he’s doing in this dynamic. I give suggestions. So he tries. He tries so hard. He feels that he’s making all these efforts and then people just use him for a ride in his car or to hang out at our house where the mom bakes brownies or fills the pantry with snacks when the friends come over. He feels like he has to bribe people to want to hang out with him. He’s always there for them in times of crisis. He’ll drop anything to be there for someone but has anyone ever done that for him? No. His friends made a big deal about his birthday and then disappeared. So that confused him further. It was like a tease. Why even do that if it wasn’t real? Was it out of guilt for being assholes? Was it like some squaring of a debt they feel they owe him? He feels so burned and gunshy and LONELY. All the time. So lonely. Gah. It hurts to see him so sad. And I don’t know what to tell him because I am not some shining example of friends as an adult. It’s not like this hasn’t happened/isn’t currently happening to me either.

He actually brought that up to me and what do I say to that? I tried the tack that life is busy. Adults have jobs and kids and those kids have activities and scheduling conflicts and so on. He responded that if people have found the time to do things with others and chosen not to include you, that isn’t about the kids and the scheduling conflicts (damn smart child, talking to him is like a trap a lot of the time). So he’s deleted his FB again because it was too hard to see his friends interacting with others and not him. It’s hard to have people tell him they want to do something with him, like go to a specific movie then he hears nothing from him and yet there they are on FB checking into that movie with different friends. It made things too easy to see in black and white and he’s threatened to get rid of his phone for the same reason. Unfortunately for him, he’s driving so I require that he have a cell phone.

He’s really scared of college and trying again to make friends even though we’ve tried to assure him that he’s going to have the chance to meet all new types of people and surely people that have things in common with him. He really doesn’t believe us. He’s convinced he’s never going to get another girlfriend. He’s never going to have good friends or any. That he’s going to be a man and his dog forever.

He’s such a great guy. I don’t know why this is happening to him.

I’m hoping that our trip to Europe is going to get his mind off things for a bit. We joked about him picking up an English girl because he’s American with long hair and he just rolled his eyes at us but at least it made him laugh some.

*not him entirely but I have suggested that maybe the type of person he has chosen to hang out with isn’t serious friend material but more jokester type and perhaps that’s why they just aren’t around much, serious friend isn’t really the class clown style.

Sprog thanks the “Internet Aunties”

The last set of “formal” thank you notes are in the mailbox as of today so that means I can get this posted, finally.

Getting a teenage boy to write a bunch of individual thank yous was a bit of a struggle (as in I had to stretch them out over the course of many days and drag him out to the table to get them done) but he wrote them all himself and I am proud of him for doing it.

But of course we had to thank the rest of the very important folks in his life (there is some overlap so some of you have already seen this or will be seeing this soon) and that means he has a message for y’all:

IMG_3281bwthankyou

“Dear Minions-

Thank you for following me all these years and making me feel important. I love my fans, because y’all are awesome, and will never forget you.
😉

xoxo
-Sprog”

Hash tag: sproggraduates

Untitled

I have shed a lot of tears. I have had a lot of sleepless nights. I have gained and lost 37 lbs of his weight. I have experienced heartburn. I color a lot of gray hair. I have worried. I have helped. I have yelled. I have grounded and cajoled. I have slept on horribly uncomfortable hospital cots for weeks at a time. I have had many, many migraines.

When he was just The Panic of realization that I was indeed pregnant after just getting engaged at 19 years old and not just my usual wonky crazy period, I wondered if I could even be a mother. I had no parental examples in my own childhood, and certainly a “mother” who spent all her time critiquing me and openly resenting me is no generator of maternal warmth. I feared it wouldn’t be possible to be close to him. That I would fail, that another lost and broken person would be turned loose onto the world and I’d be responsible.

When he was a little boy and I sucked at feigning interest playing cars for 8 million hours a day, I feared it was coming true, here was the evidence of my being broken, my damage. I couldn’t make sound effects. I didn’t care about monster trucks or piles of Legos. I felt like the worst mother on the planet.

I consoled myself with the fact that I was good in a crisis. I was there for him during all of our hospital stays, of which we had many, and when they thought he had a disease that would take him from me in his early teens, I broke down. Obviously I cared, I loved, deeply, at least that was something. I wasn’t completely broken.

And as he grew and those horrible diagnosises turned out to be wrong, we traveled and I showed him things. Experienced things with him. That nagging awful voice got quieter. We’ve white water rafted. We’ve snorkeled in The Keys. We’ve seen The Grand Canyon and done a Pink Jeep tour in Sedona. We’ve ridden a trolley in San Francisco and been to Alcatraz. We stood in snow at the top of Pike’s Peak and he did the Cartman pose in front of Casa Bonita. We swam with dolphins and went to the largest bookstore I’ve ever seen.

And yet, even though quieter, that voice had never gone away. We had a lot of struggles around school. My child is so very smart, he is, but he is also so very lazy and I have guilt about that. Is it my fault? Do I push him too much? Not enough? Am I going to make him worse? I was such a young mother, so I had no peer group to lean on and I fretted constantly about whether or not he was showing signs of being like his uncle (my bio brother) and is he bi-polar? Could pushing him lead him to the wrong path? Plus the divorce and an ex who doesn’t see eye to eye with you? Doubt is such poison.

I’ve taken a lot of flack from my son about how strict I am with him. He isn’t invited to a lot of the parties because apparently all the kids are all about drinking and yeah, no. And honestly? It’s hard because even though I am staunchly against it? I do feel bad. I like my kid. I want him to be happy and have fun but I also don’t think alcohol should be necessary to having fun as a teenager. I really don’t get it. I don’t. Y’all have your whole lives to be grown, slow the hell down and have some fun before you are saddled with responsibilities that make you want to drink. Beyond that, the eagerness to break the law and get lit makes me feel sketchy. Obviously y’all aren’t going to think twice about jumping behind the wheel of a car either and I almost lost him several times as a child, so no. Call me over protective, I’ll wear it. But I should note that he’s listening and not sneaking out or drinking anyway and that really says something about his character, I think.

To me, my son is an amazing person, his group of friends is ethnically diverse, some are religious, some are wealthy and some are so poor they all share one room in their house. It makes no difference to him. He is this long-haired skinny kid that wears a beanie every day of his life, cares about matching his clothes and shoes, listens to old school rap, Frank Sinatra and Dub step, plays Mine Craft, sculpts and bakes cookies. He received a book from his culinary teacher with an inscription thanking him for being so respectful to her and his fellow students. He was sought out by his Econ teacher, at graduation, who hugged him and told him he loved him. He truly delights in every comment, every message from “his fans”/twitter and FB aunties.

He is more than I ever could’ve dreamed I’d receive and more than I thought the daughter of drug addicts and alcoholics with a brother in prison could’ve raised. And during his graduation when the speaker mentioned being thankful to your parents for all they’ve done to get you to this point and he looked up into the stands and gave me a quiet smile and a little wave, the voice of doubt was finally silenced by his love and overwhelmed by my tears of pride.

Protected: Sprog’s graduation announcment

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38.

18 years ago I spent my birthday miserably pregnant with horrible “morning sickness” that lasted all day. I was anxious and excited at my not so distant future life as a mother and couldn’t wait to meet the little person I was carrying inside me.

18 years later and I’m still anxious and excited but for vastly different reasons. I know that little person now, only he’s definitely not so little anymore and hasn’t been for some time. I have been trying to adjust to all these changes as best as I can, but frankly as much as I love the man he’s become, I still miss my little guy. The end of this week is final call for ordering his cap and gown. We get mail from Art Institutes, Culinary Academies and the military all jockeying to own a peace of his future. He will be registering for selective service this year. He will be graduating high school this year. It will be his 18th birthday in 5 months. He’ll graduate in 6. And that graduation is on the 20th anniversary of my own graduation from high school.

This year holds BIG changes and BIG milestones…just like 18 years ago.

I can scarcely believe we are here already.

ramping up those stress hormones

Sprog is due to graduate, holy shit, June of this year. Second semester is starting with the counselor jacking his schedule all to hell because he’s “missing .5 art credits”. When we found out this was happening we weren’t happy, we were even less happy when they wanted US to prove that he actually took the art class with a report card. A report card FROM NINTH GRADE. Come on people. You are the institution, you are the one that ISSUES THE DAMN REPORT CARDS, you are telling me that you in all that freaking paperwork don’t have it? His transcripts are somehow unclear?

UGH. Part of the issue is that his school counseling system is broken into “houses” (way less cool than Harry Potter) and up until this year his house has been V. Now suddenly he is in H house and has a brand spanking new counselor. A bit has been lost in this transition. So even though it means that he’s having to give up his architecture credit as long as he gets to graduate on time and it doesn’t mess with anything else? I’m willing to just go with it and get this crap done. We need as little stress around here as possible (especially given all the personal drama). I also had hope that maybe this was just going to turn out to be a good thing, Sprog needs a change of scenery and people around him.

Or at least I was of that mind until today when I got a text from him telling me that his art teacher didn’t charge him a supply fee because “you won’t be getting credit for this course”. UM WHAT THE FUCK? No. NO. Now we are in full hand flapping freak out mode and I’m calling the counselor, like within one minute of getting that text, all while bitching on twitter of course (just keeping this honest).

I just received my call back from the counselor and she told me that the art teacher had also e-mailed her. SHOCKING. So it’s all “okay” because it’s their fault that he is missing the .5 credit in the first place. Apparently she FOUND his art information and he only took half a year of sculpture because the school pulled him out and put him in PE second semester. So since they did that they are putting in a half class now for .5 credit as a “make-up” but obviously didn’t inform the art teacher OR ANYONE ELSE because they didn’t know he had any art at all. This school man, they drive me insane. So of course I express my concern that now his “tech credit” is in jeopardy because he’s had to sacrifice half a year of his architecture design class (that he loved) over this and she assures me that last year’s architecture I tech credit has him covered.

My head is pounding. POUNDING.

Protected: Acting like children (second part)

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