2017 will go down in history as the #metoo #yotambien year. A year where everywhere you turned it seemed that a new person of power was being accused of some sort of sexual misconduct. The list continues to grow but includes such high profilers as Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Benny Medina, Matt Lauer, Geraldo Rivera, and of course our President Donald Trump. Women at the front of the #metoo campaign and the "silence breakers" have included Alyssa Milano, Ashley Judd, Susan Fowler, Taylor Swift, Adama Iwu, Isabel Pascual, and recently Salma Hayek.
Now I'm warning you that this particular blog post is for parents (adults only) so just be mindful if some of your older kids are around.
Papás, your sons AND daughters look up to you to see how you treat your wife or partner, your sisters, your moms, your friends. They look up to you to see how YOU talk with your buds, how you refer to people. You are the power person in their life, they model what they see and hear. Do you treat your partner as an equal? Many Latinos and Hispanics come from a long line of machismo where "men need to be men and act like men." Unfortunately, for those of us that grew up with machista fathers or grandfathers that meant that our mom's didn't have a voice. That they weren't ALLOWED to work or get educated because "a woman's place is in the house," that women and men are treated differently because the man is at the head of the house. That the male is the dominant figure and the woman is the submissive. Break the cycle of our past because it will affect our children tomorrow.
Mamás, your sons and daughters look up to you to see how you RESPOND to your husband/partner, your brothers, your fathers, and friends. They look up to you to see how you respond and react to people. Are you a victim? Are you a yes person even though you really mean no? Are you an enabler? Do you treat your children differently? I know my mom did. Many mamás and abuelas will do everything for their sons and not let them lift a finger, yet they expect their daughters to be cooking and cleaning by the age of 10. Empower your sons to be self sufficient. They will grow up to be great fathers and spouses. Break the cycle of our pasts because it will affect our children tomorrow.
Ok so where or how can you start breaking the cycle with your kids?
You can talk to your baby as early as their inside your womb. "Thank you baby for growing inside me." The more you connect with your child and create an environment of gratitude they will learn that simple phrases like Please & Gracias mean more than just polite manners it develops a sense of respect. Mi papá was a military man so growing up was always a "Si Señor, No Señor," (Yes Sir, No Sir). While I would definitely not go to an extreme, I can appreciate the impact a "Yes, Ma'am" or "May I please?" can have.
Show your kids that it's nice to give up your seat for the older lady OR older man, not because you have to, because you want to. Show them that it's nice to send mom flowers just because. Show them that when someone is ill or in the hospital you should go visit. Show them that it's nice to call your tia that hasn't spoken to you in a long time. Show them that a handwritten card or letter from the heart will mean more to abuela than any fancy item from Amazon Prime. One of the reasons why I fell in love with my husband early on was because on our second date he got up to give his seat to another lady while riding the subway. Mind you, we live in New York City, and while I had dated alot of men back then, this simple act of kindness made me melt. Chivalry and kindness should not die but setting an example will help steer them.
Growing up we NEVER talked about sex. As a matter of fact, I learned about sex from my classmate Hugo Hernandez and I will never forget it. He asked me if I knew where babies came from and I said, "Yeah, your parents wish for a baby and then it just happens." He said, "Wrong!" (then pulled out his right index finger, pointed to his penis, made a ring with his left index and thumb and pointed to my vagina, and then went back and forth with his fingers simulating sex). Boy, was I shocked. All I learned from my mom was that I shouldn't let anyone touch my private parts and if I touched my private parts it was a sin.
I vowed to myself to be open with my daughter (even if it may be uncomfortable) but I prefer for her to get the right information from Me than the wrong one from one of her friends, like when my friend Sergio said to me in 5th grade that I'd get pregnant if I swallowed semen, and I believed it! Bottom line, talk to your kids openly about uncomfortable stuff, cause yes it's gonna be weird having the period talk, the pubic hair talk, the erections talk, the sex and variations of sex talk, yes even reading it may feel uncomfortable, do yourself and your children a favor, get a little uncomfortable (like the parents below), they will thank you for it.
Teaching your kids to Speak Up goes hand in hand with building an environment of trust. It goes from school bullies to sexting to college parties to office environments, we have to build a relationship of trust so that our kids can communicate with us when they're facing uncomfortable or difficult situations. It starts early but you hope to build this trust throughout their entire lives. My daughter is almost 3 and goes to daycare. I teach her that if one of her classmates is doing something she doesn't like to her to speak up, raise her hand in front of her body, and say "Stop! I don't like that." I don't encourage her to fight or pick a fight but I also don't encourage her to ignore and keep quiet. I encourage her to SPEAK UP and also set a physical boundary with her hand so that she can make that powerful mind body connection.
So many Hispanic or Latina women (including myself) and men, never speak up or speak up long after the fact. Think about it, did you speak up when you were bullied? Did you speak up when you thought you deserved a raise? Did you speak up when you felt mistreated or not treated equally? Did you speak up when you were harrassed or abused? Did you wait? Are you still waiting to speak up? Ask yourself why? Empower YOURSELF by digging deep and getting help if you need to. While we may be doing a great job at passing down our tamale recipe, unknowingly we may also be passing down our emotional habits and struggles. We all want the best for our children, let's empower them so the bad cycles don't repeat.
I've recently had this conversation with my 2 year old that isn't understanding that No means No. She pestered me to the point of my frustration. I told her, "Victoria, No means No. No means stop it. No means I don't like what you're doing. No means ya basta." We are positive parents and prefer to have have her make choices, than say no all the time. There are many books and parenting suggestions against "No." While I agree that we do not want to create added frustration in our 2 year old with too many Nos, both boys and girls need to understand that No means No and it's not ok to continue doing whatever you're doing after you say No. It is OUR job as parents to implement the NO however. If we say No, but we continue letting do whatever they're doing then what are we really saying and teaching them? That No means Yes? That No means well maybe a little? That No means if you continue I will eventually say Yes? Something to think about.
How was 2017 for you? As parents you ask yourself, "Was I a good mamá or papá?" What would you like to remember or forget? How is this year different from last year? How do you feel? Are you happy with yourself? Are you making resolutions? If so, why? What do they mean to you? Only you know the answers to these questions and there are no right or wrong answers. Breaking the bad cycles of our past means we have to be introspective and be honest with ourselves and this is the perfect time to do that.
In 2017, I tried to be a better version of myself. I had good moments, I had bad moments. I was a good mom, I was a bad mom. I was a good wife, I was a bad wife. In this cycle we call life I've learned to accept the good with the bad because somehow it creates a balance. I am wiser and a little wider too, thanks to those buñuelos ;) so for 2018, one cafecito, prayer, and tantrum at a time.
Feliz Año Nuevo. Happy New Year Everyone!