I watched Paula Deen’s tearful interview on the Today show this morning discussing her use of the N—– word. She made a plea to the audience, making reference to the Bible verse John 8:7 (NIV).
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
She repented. She was sorry. She told Matt Lauer she only used the word once and it seemed she would become the next woman vilified in the media, similar to Martha Stewart. They extended time into the commercial break as Paula continued to, tearfully, appeal to the cameras. Several segments later came the “Beautiful Body Project,” a photo- journalistic view of what a real woman’s body looks like by Jade Beall. I had seen this online on The Huffington Post and was glad it was getting some air time. If you are a mother you would relate to these photos. I wish I could volunteer for a free photo-op but I’m too chicken. But A-MEN sister!
Yesterday I had to ask myself if it was summer? We sat in June-gloom on a local beach watching a sea of white and blue bodies. I found myself searching through my long lens for the two heads that I claim as mine. Amidst the hundreds of kids from various junior lifeguard programs my girlfriend and I walked up and down this strand for approximately half an hour. It’s kind of hard to miss our group. My son swore they would be at lifeguard station 9. Interestingly enough, the lifeguard stations had no idea what was being coordinated; nor did they have any idea where our group could be.
That’s just life, isn’t it?
I’ve come to the conclusion that life is like a beach; the ocean, peaks and troughs. It’s very difficult to really know what the truth is; who a person really is; blurred waves on jagged shores. One of the things the kids learn when they are in a rip current is to relax and float to the top; to not fight where it takes you. If you fight it you expend energy and get weak and disoriented. But if you relax and float on the surface, you will be seen. Some people have learned to skim the surface, to float through hard times with someone always at the rescue. Others fight the current determining their own fate. If there is no communication between the lifeguard stations, how will they work together? People just roam around aimlessly searching….
But if we learn to work together, to pass the baton, we can make progress. One person can’t carry a team just as one person shouldn’t carry a burden alone. Paula Deen has relied on her friends, Jade Beall is thankful for the women who volunteered their post partum bodies for her project. This is another lesson I want my boys to learn. Communication. Working together. Compromise.
“Is blood really thicker than water?” my son asks.
As I shivered we watched our kids do drills on the sand. Team building skills; working together. You had to rely on your fellow person to get their job done and follow-through. It used to be that when someone gave their word, they delivered. These days that is not the norm. When searching for something in Home Depot it is rare to find an associate who can direct me to the right place; or even volunteer to point me in the right direction. With our smartphones we get instant gratification with minimal work. Why go the extra mile for customer service?
This is where our parenting skills lack. Kids work hard and it’s easy for a parent to yell and judge a kid for their faults. I invite those parents, themselves, to do what they ask of their kids. The pressures of being: the top of the class, the best in their sport, the best dressed, most popular. When I ask my kids to do their best I, also, push myself to be efficient; to take pride in my work. I make sure my sons know I toil away, that things are not easy. There is nothing wrong with work. Kids don’t know how to effectively communicate, these days, because everything is done at their fingertips (texting, enabling parents). We need to teach our kids how to talk. To say what they mean. Admittedly, I had a son who spoke what he meant but my parent filters didn’t listen. I listen now.
Who am I to cast stones?
It was a rare occasion that we could watch our boys on a Tuesday morning on a beach. Normally we are at work but the in-laws graciously offered to watch the business so we could be parents. The hubs decided to lounge like a lizard in the warm sand while I laid nearby for a pic. One of the things my in-laws appreciate is that our parenting years fly-by. In the midst of a busy June, with multiple orders-on-deck, they shooed us on our way.
Parenting. Some people take it for granted; not realizing the impact their actions parlay on their offspring. Of all the institutions that should be revered; parenting should be tip-top. One word, one action can screw up a kid for life. On the flip-side, encouragement or a simple touch can also sway a child the other way. The Peggy O’ Mara quote comes to mind.
“What you say is your child’s inner voice.”
Do you hear an inner voice from your childhood? I do. This morning my mother-in-law and I were remembering what we carry from our formative years. My father brought me a Hershey’s candy bar home every night; a small business owner; like ourselves. To this day I really can’t eat them, unless in s’mores, because I had them too often; nor can I have Almond Joy. But every time I see those candy bars I think of the smile my father had for me; the happiness that he came home every night to say hi to his little girl. But the inner voice in my head is my mother’s to clean the house, her sacrifices she made for me. She taught me to iron pillow cases and sheets, cook, clean. I chose not to learn how to sew; her craft. I knew my mother would do anything for me. She just always made it a point to let me know and to share, with anyone who would listen, of my own accomplishments. This is a major turn-off for me; even now.
I definitely can’t cast stones but others think they can. Some of them hold onto the stones, so tightly, making them smooth because they want to blame someone else. They can’t wait to throw them. When you seek truth, as Paula Deen chose to tell, sometimes it’s just ugly. The truth can hurt. Should she have lied? Does this make her a better person for being honest? What does this say about her character?
Blurred lines. I keep being swayed by smoke and mirrors. Gullible person that I am, I still believe that if someone tells me something; it is true. But time and time again, I’ve been misled. What is the truth? I don’t condone what Paula Deen did but I’m glad she owned up to her mistake. I like that this photographer shows what most women’s bodies look like versus the media’s version of what beauty is supposed to be. I dislike when people cry wolf to divert attention from underlying issues. It is my job, as a parent, to teach my children their inner voice in such a way that is: honest, respectful and sincere. I don’t want my boys skimming the surface superficially. I want them to have substance, to follow-through, to say, loud and clear, what they mean without retribution.
And I. I need to hear them. With big ears.
I answered my son. “Blood isn’t always thicker than water. But brotherhood is.”