In Honor of Family

It-Takes-a-Whole-Village-stepmother-adviceSpring and summer bring so many opportunities for celebration:  Graduation, Easter, Passover….and this weekend, Mother’s Day.  Did you know that over 46 countries currently celebrate Mother’s Day — though not all on the second Sunday in May?  The origins of the day actually, according to history, go back to ancient times when the true essence was a celebration and honoring of the Mother goddess acknowledged by the celebrating culture.

I’m not writing to applaud or denounce any one way to celebrate this Spring moment.  Instead, I want to share the importance of this day to me.  As someone who struggles with and openly denounces Valentine’s Day, as well as other now merchandised holidays, it surprises many to know that I embrace Mother’s Day.  I have always embraced it, even before I was a mom, even when it was a struggle to figure out appropriate ways to honor the women in my life.  I do not expect, nor do I really know what to do with gifts on Mother’s Day;  instead I would much rather bond with my girlfriends over mimosas and laughter and introduce my teenage children to the bond of friendship than receive a bouquet of flowers.  That said, I will be taking myself and my children out to brunch tomorrow, but it’s to celebrate the family that has come to be with the humbling and joyous arrival of each of my children instead of their celebration of me.  It’s an opportunity for us to stop and be conscious of one another and the bond that has been created over time and with love, frustration, laughter and a spectrum of emotion.

A lot of emotional and mental awareness goes into Mother’s Day for me.  I spent most of this week being grateful for the other women who have been in my life and the lives of my children.  The Vienna Mamas who have made meals, provided hugs, scolded accordingly, check in on my children when I couldn’t and support me.  The teachers who have filled in for those life moments that happen during and after school when parents are not present but are none the less important for children.  The friends and sisters and grandparents who have been a part of the support network that helps my children now and will be there in the future.

During this weekend I think about the dads who raise children without a traditional mother, the gay parents who fill the role of mother and father regardless of gender and for societies confusion do not always get the recognition they have earned.  I think about the children who do not have a community of support and ache for their loss. I hold with great love in my heart all of the children who have allowed me the privilege of being a part of their community of maternal support.

For me, Mother’s Day has never been a day to “take a break” from the responsibility I agreed to and willingly took on (though I’m not saying that those moments have not occurred as a parent and are vital for family wellbeing when only moments in time), but a time to pause and think about what it means to be allowed to contribute to the nurturing of a future generation.  When I say, “Happy Mother’s Day,” I mean no disrespect for those women who cannot or do not want to have children, but instead make an assumption that those women are still impacting the life of a child or children somewhere. I hope all who engage with children take time this weekend to reflect on the huge and impactful contribution you make to the present and future world we live in.

The African proverb states, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and Mother’s Day, for me, is just one more conscious opportunity to stop and give thanks to the villages that my children and I am a part of.

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Buzz Kill

peaceI will not be one of the many people standing in line to see 50 Shades of Grey this weekend.  And, before there is a ton of backlash, I’m not judging individuals in loving, caring respectful relationships nor what they enjoy in their own private time together.  However, I am deeply concerned about the messages this movie is sending all impressionable men and women as well as the impact it’s having on our global culture.

It has taken us years to break down the stigma of the airbrushed fantasy and educate the men who think those images are natural and normal, as well as heal the damage caused to generations of women striving for the impossible because they’ve been taught anything less is unlovable.  In this movie we are visually capturing and romanticizing behaviors that set both men and women up for failure.  I know this material has been in steamy books, but there is something really powerful for humans when the visual cortex is stimulated the way soft porn does.  Compounding the influence is that we take away the limits of one persons imagination, which is applied when reading a book, and make another persons imagination a reality for thousands when we put it on film.  Lastly, we all know that this movie is fantasy, but history has taught us that all forms of media are highly influential, highly suggestive, and when absorbed by those with immature mental and/or emotional capacity or by those who have been hurt, wounded or compromised to a point where their self-esteem is damaged, it becomes one more tool by which an individual measures and weighs themselves or worse.  The worse?  A culture that accepts these behaviors as a standard for a new cultural norm.

I’m not just worried about the girls who will think that doing anything a man wants will earn them love or those who will use substances in order to be OK with the behaviors that they think will make them lovable — because those are the messages this movie sends.  But also the boys and men who will feel as though the elements of power presented in this story are the measures of success that they must apply against themselves.  That to get the girl and get the high-powered roles in life this is who you have to be and how you have to behave, and that anything less is failure.  These are horrible messages that we are perpetuating through this film, and sadly, through many others.

I am aware that there have been other movies equally as graphic in nature, so why are so many people concerned about this movie?  Because there are movies, books, television shows and personalities that in one moment in time cause a cultural shift.  Their attitude, power, or influence are so enticing or provocative that their messages became the new normal.  I’m not worried that every household globally will have a secret S&M room, I’m more concerned that we are adding to the culture of unrealistic expectations and undoing decades of work around equality and respect.  It keeps me up at night that we continue to bombard humanity with messages that highlight an unbalanced perspective of human nature and we feed on those messages because they satisfy the most basic and instinctual parts of our brains.  It’s not just thumbs that set humans apart in the animal kingdom, but the ability to cultivate reason and emotional capacity.  When we support messages of violence, disrespect and degradation, are we catering to our highest capacity as humans?

In an age where we are still losing the fight against domestic violence, human trafficking and rape, and in which high suicide rates among our young people are prevalent, why do we participate in ANYTHING that perpetuates dominance over women or which sends messages to our men that this kind of behavior is not only acceptable but desired and OK?

It’s important to state again that I’m not judging anyone who sees the movie nor the actions any two people lovingly and mutually respectfully undertake together.  But neither of those messages are sent through this and so many other movies.

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