The Nights (part 3)

“Stephanie, where have you been? Momma has been looking for you. If you have been in the quarters again momma is going to be upset. You know she has been feeling faint, tires easily and according to the doctor should not put a strain on her heart. Why can’t you be a lady and stop running around Divine Mercy like a savage? Look at your clothes. You’ve surely ruined your dress.” 

Even though her name means crown, I say crown of thorns. She often says, “I just want to be free!” Free? Being a lady is freedom. Being the middle daughter is freedom. Being the child of a wealthy businessman is freedom. Momma doesn’t require her to do the same things as I. That’s freedom. I would love to ride my horse or hangout in the quarters or sit in the barn loft thinking of our recent trip to Paris. As the oldest child the expectation is for me to keep an eye on Stephanie. 

Momma wanted her to be a boy so much that she named her Stephen. Poppa said no girl of his would have a boy name. Who would marry a woman named Stephen? She says she plans to runaway one day and explore the world. I have no time for such foolishness. 

I do as momma says and I try to watch her and Sally. Sally is a sweet quiet girl. She is always reading a book or sewing something for her hope chest. She filled mine with the most delicate doilies with beautiful details. I like to open the chest and look at them and run my fingers over the edges. They are a thing of beauty. I pretend I’m the mistress of the house and lay these out for our guests. One day, after I’m married, Divine Mercy will belong to my husband. I look forward to those days. Running a home will be easier than keeping up with Stephanie. 

“Poppa”, Stephanie yelled. Mattie, one of the house slaves, told her to hush because it’s not proper to yell in the house. Stephanie kept walking and yelling. When he rounded the corner he looked at her with amusement at first then quickly changed his expression to one of concern mixed with slight disapproval. “What is it daughter?” Poppa asked. “Will you please come down to the slave quarter and tell Moses to jump a broom with me?” Poppa’s expression changed to irritation with a bit of anger. Jumping a broom was what the slaves did to signify a marriage union. Our slaves were not allowed to marry. When they married they had children and the males became protective and therefore a nuisance. We kept our males and females separated. No need in creating a problem unnecessarily. 

Moses was one of the slaves that had grown up here on the plantation. He was learning to play the fiddle and was a natural. Due to his caramel skin color and slight build he would be easy to hire out for parties and other occasions. 

Stephanie said, “I love him and want to marry him.” To which father replied, “I will sell him if you go near him again.” Stephanie’s hands clenched together by her side. Poppa’s jawline was tense as he squinted his eyes. They both stood their  ground staring at each other until momma, who had been listening and watching, walked up and shook Stephanie. Momma promised to lock her in the cellar if she said another word. Stephanie never challenged momma. She knew momma would keep her word and lock her up in the root cellar. Stephanie let out a stiffled scream of frustration and stomped off. 

This scene had become a regular occurrence since Stephanie turned thirteen. She was becoming more belligerent by the day. She seemed to pick fights and willfully disobey. 

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Teen Dating

Let me give you a quick review. I have four children. I’m divorced. I prefer to say we are co-parenting rather than single parenting. I refer to my children collectively as the fan4 or fantastik4. The oldest will be 17 soon and I lovingly refer to him as The Teenager. Second up is my daughter who is now 14 and she is my Honeygirl. The third one, who has the qualities of the attention grabbing middle child, is 11 and referred to as Little Dude. The last one in our line up is my baby boy who is nine. He acts like he’s 39 most of the time. He’s the self appointed referee for Little Dude and often finds himself blowing the whistle, throwing flags and explaining the rules of life to him. From now on we shall refer to him as Ref. I determined early on to protect their identities since I share things that occur in their lives. 

Dating… (Insert eye roll and a deep sigh) (after I typed that I realized I should use some really funny meme but since I don’t have a stock pile of them to flip through and select from I’m using good old fashioned words) I will not lie, I’m not a fan of teen dating. After polling my daughter and her previous bff, we determined that from middle school to high school the average relationship lasts about four weeks. We have six six week grading session during the school year. By the time they begin middle school in sixth grade until they graduate they could potentially have “dated” 63 people at the rate of nine per year. 

But what is dating at 11 or even at 16? 

When I think about my daughter and her friend excitedly discussing dating and boys in general it made me sad and a bit anxious. 

Sad because the friend felt incomplete and was upset with her parents because they wouldn’t allow her to date. She really wanted her very own boyfriend. This disagreement sparked a rebellion and she began running away. My daughter has been asking me about dating for years. She asks her dad and me to define the timeline and allowed activities. His standard answer is 36. Mine is based on maturity and decision making ability. She is enamored with dating. I refer to it as the Disney effect. After watching those popular teen shows she thinks dating has perfect lighting, a laugh track, great clothes, hair and make up as well as a great ending. Periodically I like to dash their dating dreams on the rocks of reality and talk about kissing, hugging, touching and what if that’s not what you want? What’s your exit plan? How do you protect yourself from a person who may overpower or manipulate you into something you aren’t ready to do?

I was anxious because a lot of adults don’t have the cognitive ability to select a good partner and remain committed. If after years of education, reading articles, blogs, after video viewing and talking to other people we as adults make questionable relationship choices then how are they expected to make sound decisions at such a young age? Each dating partner is given a tiny piece if not large chunk of their hearts. They aren’t looking for spouses. They are looking for good times. They aren’t searching for anything deep and long lasting. It’s fleeting and shallow. 

Exhibit 1- the teenager went on a first date to the movies recently with some girl he met through a friend. He asked her to be his girlfriend the next day. She asked him to join her at church on Sunday, meet her parents and have lunch with her family afterwards. She prepped him on what her parents would say and how to respond. I texted his dad with my concerns of how quickly this was moving. She broke up with him the next day. 

I’m glad I never really learned her name or got attached. I don’t even want to know the newest interest’s name until they make it past the four week mark. 

I’m not into the whole bring people home so I can meet them thing. My two brothers ruined that for me. They brought everybody by the house. It wasn’t something special it was normal. I have a male friend who whole heartedly disagrees with me. He wants to meet any and everybody his daughter dates. The one time he and is ex found out she had a boyfriend they planned a family dinner and invited him over. They broke up after the invite but before dinner. 

I understand the desire to have somebody to call your very own.  Who doesn’t want their very own George or squishy? I have friends who met the loves of their lives in high school. It happens. Is it possible to somehow bypass the other 62 people to get to that one? Yes, it is. Serial dating does not have to become their norm neither does looking for someone to define or complete them. 

How are you helping your teen manuver through the obstacle dating course?

13

That’s the number of years it’s been since I first laid eyes on her. My daughter, my honeygirl, my image, my hope realized. I love her with all of me. I love all of my children but my relationship with her is different. She is my only daughter and we “get” each other. We talk with our eyes, slight head movements, half smiles and certain looks. We speak the same none language. We are not best friends. I’m her mom, her guidance, her boundaries, her gauge, her disciplinarian and her sounding board. I’m honored that she wants me in her life. She insists that I become friends with the moms of her friends. I’ve heard her tell friends she has the best or coolest mom ever. 

I didn’t have a great relationship with my mom growing up. I would never have referred to her as the best mom ever. I was never sure I could get this mother daughter thing right. Right for me was better than what I grew up with. But I’m getting it right. We are getting it right. I cherish every moment I get to spend being her mom. 

Happy Birthday Honeygirl!

A Woman’s Virtue

Back in March, there was a report of a young man who was shot and killed while standing in a female’s bedroom. This was the bedroom of the shooter’s daughter. The father asked a couple of questions, the young man reached for something, the father shot him. When she was initially questioned by her father, the daughter said she did not know the young man.
Deep sigh.
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/03/13/houston-dad-fatally-shoots-teen-inside-daughters-room-report-says/

When I first saw this article I pulled my oldest two children aside and spoke to them about a woman’s (female’s) virtue. The Teenager was 14 and Honeygirl was 11. This article broke my heart for all involved but created an opportunity for some real conversations between them and me.

I told them what happened according to the article. Then I went on to explain a woman’s virtue. You see, a woman, girl, female will do or say anything to protect her perceived virtue. She will lie, deny, accuse or blame if needed.

Right around this time, the Teenager had done something immature to one of his female friends. He unknowingly embarrassed her in front of her mother and siblings. She quit speaking to him after that incident. We talked through the scenario and I explained his missteps. He created an awkward moment for her in front of her family. Her virtue wasn’t at stake but it was a good lead in to our conversation. She may have reacted differently if her family hadn’t been there but they were.

During our conversation about a woman’s virtue I said, it is your job not to put yourself in a position with a girl when afterwards, she has to lie, is embarrassed or feels ashamed. In secret, she may allow you to do anything to her but when people find out, she will feel the need to protect her virtue. She will choose her virtue over you going to jail or losing your life. Most girls don’t want anybody to know they go all the way or even part of the way, especially not their dad. My advice to my son, if you can’t walk through the front door of her house, don’t go. If you need to wait until her parents are asleep to meet up with her, don’t go. Now I understand getting caught up in the moment and the excitement that goes along with being invited into a girl’s room. I get it. But understand the risks. It’s not worth being accused of rape, breaking and entering, and it’s not worth your future for a moment of pleasure. I also advised him not to kiss and tell. Let her keep her perceived virtue.

To my daughter I said, don’t lie. Own your actions and decisions. If you don’t want anybody else to know, don’t commit the action then there is nothing to tell. I explained the ramifications of a lie to a young man’s life and his future.

I would love to have my children remain pure until marriage but just in case the offer is too good to turn down, I want them to understand the consequences. It could be a matter of life or death.

The Building of the Fire Pit

Last weekend I asked the Teenager to put together a fire pit I purchased when I was preparing to move into our house. I had visions of us sitting outside in on a cool evening or morning drinking hot chocolate and enjoying the fire in the pit and each other’s company. Then life happened and two falls and winters later, I finally made it a priority to put the pit together. I sealed the deal by asking friends over. You know when you invite kids over to roast marshmallows and  make s’mores you’d better be ready.

The Teenager is my designated Mr. Fixit/ handyman. Sometimes we need to challenge our children beyond their current capacity. I had Honeygirl and Little Dude bring the box in and The Teenager went to work. He pulled out the directions, at this age he doesn’t know the man code about not reading directions, and began putting the pit together. He experienced some frustrations at one point and called on his siblings to assist him which they willingly did. Hold this! Lift that! Then I heard he yell out, “you never do anything right!” I called him into my room at this point to have a conversation about that statement. I started out by saying, “one day you will become a father and as a father one thing you don’t want to tell your children is they can never do anything right.” I asked him to imagine me saying that to him. He was having a difficult time but I never yelled at him or took over the project. In teaching our children, we sometimes learn lessons ourselves. I am definitely learning patience and temperance. He apologized and they made up. He also understood my point. I hope he builds his children and my children up instead of tearing them down. The power of our words is just powerful.

Most of what I do with him is intentional. He turned 14 a few weeks ago and at this point I have fewer years of influence and teachable moments ahead of me. I told him he was putting this pit together for several different reasons. I want him to have a sense of accomplishment, I want him to learn to ask for help, I want him to work with his siblings, I want them to work with him, I want him to be the man his wife will depend on to make things happen, and I want him to experience frustration in a controlled environment, I want him to know I am here for him and I want him to know he can do anything. I didn’t just start this journey, it started when he was a baby but now we have moved on to bigger things that have bigger rewards.

I ended up going in to help him out. He was almost done but needed an extra hand and words of encouragement. When he was done, we all oohed and aahed at the fire pit and then began the task of getting wood to burn in the fire pit.

fire pit

As I said before, I bought the pit a couple of years ago. Last year I bought wood to burn in the pit. It has been sitting in my garage waiting. I thought the wood was too big to burn in the pit so I decided the boys and I needed to go to the local hardware store and buy and axe. One our way there the Little Dude had a mild session of wigging out. He said he didn’t want an axe in the house because he was afraid he would get chopped into little pieces. I am not sure what he has been watching on TV but I assured him that was not our short term or long term goal. We merely wanted to chop some pieces of wood. I asked the kindly gentlemen which axe I should buy for the task at hand. The said a 3lb axe would do just fine. The teenager and I both decided to go with what he said. He was the expert right? Well let me tell you that a 3lb axe doesn’t cut through a thin tree limb. The Teenager must have chopped that piece of wood for quite a while and never made any progress. He did receive lots of cheers from his siblings. Thankfully, earlier in the day, I had purchased a fire log that catches fire and burns easily. Oh, the axe did cut through that thing.

The Axe

The friends showed up, it was a cold enough evening with a few sprinkles and they were all excited. The Teenager made everybody stay in the house as he attempted to get the wood to light. I have never lit a fire before in my entire life other than on a gas stove. My ex lit the fires in our fire place and I now have a gas burning fireplace. I did know we might need some paper, smaller pieces of wood that might catch quicker and then the wood. Again, I am thankful for the fire log because it saved the day. The kids roasted marshmallows and ate their s’mores.

As the younger ones went back in the house The Teenager pulled up a chair with me to enjoy the fire. He then began to talk to me about things that have been on his mind. I love when my kids share their heart with me. All in all I would say the building of the fire pit was a great experience. We learned, we laughed and in the end we still had respect and love. What more can you ask for?