Wonder Woman Taught Me How To Raise a Strong Son

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to see the latest re-imagining of Wonder Woman. She is someone who I always wanted to be when I grew up – not so much the Linda-Carter-strapless-swimsuit aspect but the smart-butt-kicking-lasso-wielding-cuff reflecting-invisible-jet-flying-character. When I asked my kids if any of them wanted to go, I had two takers – my 14 year old daughter and my 10 year old son. My daughter was a given but not necessarily my 10 year old son. I talked to him before hand to let him know this was serious movie. DC has always been darker than Marvel. He still wanted to come. In all fairness, I pretty sure it was the promise of theater popcorn that was the ultimate draw.

My expectations of the movie were exceeded. I hoped so much that this movie would give us a strong female who was a warrior and one with heart who fought for those who needed it. Nailed it! The fighting sequences were AMAAAAAAAAAAAZING. I actually wrote a note to myself to learn the knee-sliding-sword-slicing move. Gal Gadot was everything I wanted in a Wonder Woman.

FYI: Potential Spoilers from here on out.

What I didn’t expect to happen was that my 10 year old son would teach me a lesson before the movie was through. Without giving away too much, this movie has a lot of death. The writers do their job of making the viewers get connected to the characters before they kill them off. That’s their job and they’re good at it. Unfortunately, my 10 year old has a very soft heart. Feel free to judge me – I knowingly took a soft-hearted 10 year old to see a PG-13 movie. But I’m glad I did. He reminded me that for all the stereotypes we have for women, we have them for men as well.

After one scene in the movie, he asked me whether the character had died or not. I nodded my head and saw the devastation seep in his eyes. He did his best to sniff back the tears and wipe his eyes with his t-shirt as discretely as possible. I just patted his back and told him to not let it get to him. It’s not real. However, that statement made me a hypocrite. Why? At that point, I had already gotten teary-eyed at least four times. Basically, I was telling him it was okay for me to cry but not for him. Whenever he cries over something, I always tell him to toughen up or I roll my eyes and get frustrated. Boys aren’t supposed to cry so much, right? Says who?

He held it together the best he could until we got to the car. I was just getting ready to put the car in gear and drive off when he buckled himself up and proceeded to try to hide the fact that he was crying. Ask yourself while you’re reading this, what are your thoughts? Do you think he’s a sissy? A baby? Why? If it was a daughter crying and not a son, would it make a difference? I put the car in park, got out, went to his door, opened it, and put my arms around him. He immediately went on the defensive, “I know it’s not real but it’s just super sad!”

In that moment of holding my 10 year old while he was trying to defend his tears, my only goal was to make him understand that tears don’t make you weak. I tried to explain, “Someone once told me that a soft heart doesn’t make you weak. It means you feel things when others don’t want to. You feel things when others back away because they are uncomfortable. Having a soft heart doesn’t mean you’re weak. Nope. It means you’re strong. You’re strong because you’ll see things that others don’t and you’ll be able to help people that others won’t. Nothing is wrong with tears. Strong people cry because they refuse to hold onto something that will hurt them.”

Watching Wonder Woman made me realize a few things. She is not only a character embodying feminine power. She embodies power and the will to help everyone – female or not. Wonder Woman is not just a movie for women, it’s a movie for girls, boys, women,AND men. It’s for whoever can take something from what was said or what was seen and make a positive step because of it. A little too deep for a movie about a comic book character? Perhaps. I believe we find meaning anywhere and anytime we happen to be open to it.

My goals used to be to raise strong women and compassionate men. I’ve amended that. I want to raise strong, compassionate women and men. Some of the strongest men I know cry. Some of the softest women I know fight. It’s time to stop boxing people up with some inane, sexist assumptions. Honestly, I think our main focus in this life should be the same as Diana’s/Wonder Woman’s purpose and set out to help others. She is a great example to follow – whether you are a boy or a girl. Be a fighter when it’s needed. Be emotional when you need it. Most importantly, be yourself…whoever that may be.

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You’ve Been Remade

When I was young, we had a wood burning stove inside our house. It was one of those that protruded from the wall with a step up from the floor. There was an open area of the hearth on either side. Even though we lived in Arizona, it still was chilly during winter mornings and nights. One of our favorite games to play was to run up to the stove, turn so our butts were facing the stove, and stand as close as we could until our butts and the back of our legs were roasting. Then we would run and sit as quickly as possible on the couch so that heat gave us a nice little flash burn. What? Some kids eat paint chips. We tried to see how close we could get to fire without getting third degree burns.

My little sister and I always took our baths at night. Cool temps and wet hair do not a comfortable situation make. Once we were done with our baths, we would race from the bathroom wrapped in our towels – no streaking allowed – to stand on either side of the stove. We would then proceed to rotate like a hot dog on those convenience store rollers – to make sure to distribute the heat evenly. One evening we ran our usual race to the stove which was stupid because there were two sides to the stove and only two of us. We didn’t have to race; we were both going to “win”. On this particular evening, I must not have been paying attention or was super cold and misjudged the heat and the efficiency of my towel coverage. I had no sooner stood next to the stove to bask in the warmth when I heard a sizzle and felt an instantaneous shot of pain. My right thigh had not only slid out from underneath my towel but also got a liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitttttle too close to the stove. I jumped back and looked. Sure enough, there was a perfect line of skin that had been burned off.

I didn’t want to get in trouble so I never said anything to my parents. Falling in accordance with children’s logic, I believed that if I left it alone and just forgot about it it would go away.

It took awhile to go away, but it did heal. The only thing was that it left a weird white line of scar on my leg. What was really funny was that as I grew, the scar changed it’s position on my leg and progressively moved towards my hip. It was a constant reminder to be very cautious around that stupid stove.

So, at this point, you may be asking yourself why I’ve just made you read a random memory about a careless moment from my childhood. Recently, I had a conversation with someone I love very much who has been going through a tough time. There have been some major things that have happened to this individual. The recent struggles, truthfully, would completely crush the average person. As I listened, all I could think of was there was no way I could have made it. When discussing a particularly heartbreaking event, this beautiful person asked, “How do you get over something like that?” At the time, I did not have an answer but just offered a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on.

Since then, that question has been looping through my mind -“How do you get over something like that?” It made me reflect on some major obstacles in my life that I’ve overcome. Man, they sucked. I had moments when I really didn’t know if I would make it. There were things that happened that changed me but I don’t think I ever “got over” them. However, I don’t think we are supposed to. I don’t think we suffer a heartbreak, work through sorrow, and then move on like nothing ever happened. Heartbreak, trials, death, betrayals – those things leave a mark…but that’s okay.

I have lots of scars on my body. Besides the line from the stove, there’s the one from when I fell off my bike and tried to make gravel angels with my knee, the one on my forehead when I tried to head butt the fender of a moving pickup truck, and the one on my lower abdomen where they had to retrieve my breech-positioned son. I also have scars that you can’t see. Ones that reside within my heart and mind. There’s the one from when a childhood friend died of cancer, another from when my parents divorced, ones from numerous heartbreaks and lost loved ones. No matter where the scars may be, I need them. I need them to remind me of where I’ve been. One of my favorite quotes is from the book Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. She had a scar that she hated and was a little embarrassed by it but her husband “said it was interesting. He used the word ‘textured’. He said ‘smooth’ is boring but ‘textured’ was interesting, and the scar meant that I was stronger than whatever had tried to hurt me” (1). I need scars to remind me that I am stronger than I think I am.

Scars are kind of cool. You see, when we get cut, or burned, or whatever, our body forms new layer to fix the wound. That new protective layer becomes a scar. “That new scar tissue will have a different texture and quality than the surrounding tissue” (2). So think of that question again – “How do you get over something like that?” When something truly horrible happens to us, we get a new protective layer. Sometimes that layer is self-produced. Sometimes that layer is produced through the love of others. It doesn’t matter how it is produced what matters is that IT IS THERE. Just like any other wound, when it’s fresh, it’s hard to see how it will ever be healed. It’s hard to know exactly what to do to treat it. What do I put on it? Should I just ignore? If I don’t pick at it it will go away, right?

 

Here’s the deal though, you can help to aid the healing process. When I burned my hip, I never told my mom. I really should have. Luck must’ve been on my side because it could have gotten all nasty and infected. Not only would that have lengthened my healing time but could have caused more damage along the way. My problem? I’m a teensy bit stubborn. (Everyone who knows me well just rolled their eyes and that slight understatement.) I don’t like asking for help. When you are hurt, don’t rely solely on a self-generated protective layer. Turn to someone to help you build a protective layer. Let them help. Don’t let your wound cause more damage along the way because you are ignoring it in hopes it will just go away. Once a protective layer is in place, build it up and rely on it. And, when the scar is formed, own it. You were stronger than what tried to hurt you. Because of that, you have another layer of texture and another layer of quality. Smooth is boring and texture is interesting.

When you find yourself lost and questioning, just remember: you don’t get over something. You throw on that protective layer and let that something get over you. You will not be the same. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’ve become upgraded…

 

Sources

  1. Walls, Jeanette. GLASS CASTLE: a memoir. S.l.: SCRIBNER, 2005.
  2. “Scars and Your Skin”. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/scars

I Still Can’t Fly But That’s Okay

When I was growing up, I loved watching “Bewitched” reruns. I was convinced if I just practiced I could tap into my own magical powers. For what seemed like hours, I practiced my nose twitching skills hoping for some kind of results. Alas, the soap in the dish never moved. My room was never spotless when I returned to it. When it was clear my nose held no power, I moved on to reading minds. I know what you’re thinking – such a silly girl. Maybe not so silly since I knew what you were thinking just then. Anyhow, after realizing mind-reading wasn’t one of my powers, I moved on to flying. I won’t go into all of the details but by the time I was done, I ruined a couple of  umbrellas, fell out of a couple of trees, twisted an ankle or two, and ripped up a good pair of jeans. Miraculously, I never broke any bones. I think that is because I was never foolish enough to try and jump off of the roof of my house. That would be crazy! I’m was (and still am) too afraid of heights to do that. That realization along with my failures cemented the fact that flying was just not my thing. I kept trying and trying different things in hope of tapping into any dormant powers. Then something truly horrible happened – I hit puberty. Even worse? I started to care what people thought of me.

I forgot all about my undiscovered powers. My new quest was to try to fit in. As the third of four children, I felt like the oddball. It didn’t matter if it was true – I mean I did try to fly – it made me feel very unsure of myself. Everyone in my family was athletic or at least coordinated. I’ve been hopelessly awkward from the word go. I tried basketball, softball, volleyball, and track. How did I do you ask? Please view this painfully accurate portrayal:

faceplant-giphy

Any other questions? I’d like to say that by the time I hit high school I figured things out, but I’d be lying. Matter of fact, I still haven’t quite figured myself out, but I’m getting to the point where I’m okay with that.

So what about my special powers? Well, it’s only been in the past 10ish years that I’ve started thinking about all of that again. I’ve refreshed my love of super heroes and magical beings. I love Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings, basically anything magical and mythical. As adult as I may be, I guess my desire to tap into any undiscovered powers hasn’t died. My quest just changed a little to find a hero to look up to. The main reason? I have two daughters. From the time they were very young, I have wanted them to have an example to emulate. There had to be someone out there.

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to ask author Deborah Harkness some questions regarding her book Discovery of Witches. We were discussing strong female role models and she stated that we all are strong and powerful we just haven’t realized it yet. She went on to say, “Often, though, [we] are afraid of [our] own power and try to be invisible. We all do that. Owning your own power is a scary thing.” ¹ Wait. What?

mind-blown-giphy

It was an amazing conversation and we discussed the idea of being afraid of ourselves. She finished her comments to me saying, “We all have power. But most of us are frightened to use it and own it. Find yours. It’s there. And it won’t look like anyone else’s power. It’s all–and only–for you!”¹ I was almost in tears. Oh how I wish my 12 year old self could have had that conversation. It’s not that she was telling me that I may have the power to fly, read minds, or be able to shoot laser beams (yeah…I forgot to mention that one). It made me realize that we discount ourselves when we try to be like someone else.

This past April a friend of mine shared a conversation she overheard between her daughter and a classmate. The classmate asked her daughter who her favorite superhero was. Her daughter’s response was (and still is) the best thing I’ve read all year: “Myself.”

superhero-b

At 10, “B” (we need to protect her secret identity) already knows what I still am trying to work out at 40. WE ARE OUR OWN SUPER HEROES. That is the attitude we need to be teaching our children and more specifically to our daughters, granddaughters, and nieces. I had a conversation with a seven year old girl about who could get Thor’s hammer if he died or retired. (Hey…it was a very serious conversation.) She told me I couldn’t have Thor’s hammer because I was a girl. I, of course, cleared that misconception. Girls all around us don’t realize how powerful they are. Women all around us have given up because they don’t think they are as powerful as someone else. Stop comparing yourself to someone else. Stop trying to be a “new” version of someone else. That’s not how it works!!!

not-how-this-works-giphy

Let me repeat Ms. Harkness’s words:

We all have power. But most of us are frightened to use it and own it. Find yours. It’s there. And it won’t look like anyone else’s power. It’s all–and only–for you!”¹

We are all so uniquely powerful. Why are we so afraid to be different? No little girl should ever be told she can’t do something because it’s just for boys. No woman should ever be ashamed of “just being a mother” or being career woman. Your power doesn’t look like anyone else’s.

I want to issue a challenge for us all. You are your own superhero – find your powers. I’m still working on mine. I still can’t fly but that’s okay. I’m doing my best to help my girls realize theirs. Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t be afraid to be a girl. And most importantly, please remember that “ you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” ²

Sources:

¹ Harkness, Deborah. “I’m Deborah Harkness, Author of the #1 Bestselling ALL SOULS TRILOGY and Professor of the History of Science. AMA!” Reddit, 2015, http://www.reddit.com/r/books/comments/396671/im_deborah_harkness_author_of_the_1_bestselling/cs0w1r9/?context=3.

² Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin , Karl Guers, director. Walt Disney, 1997.