Tuesday, January 21, 2014

5 Lies I Will Never Tell My Stepdaughter

It's fairly customary for me to scroll through my Facebook feed at at least 10 times a day. Okay 20.

At most 30.

But yesterday as I sped past all the baby announcements, comments on the weather and post of self loathing, something occurred to me. My stepdaughters are growing up in an era where every person's opinion on every subject are available to them at any moment. When I was a child, I formed my opinions by listening to the grown-ups that I saw the most: my parents, teachers and religious leaders. 

So in an the age of constant information (or misinformation) overload, what truths and lessons do I want to make darn sure my stepchildren will take with them? It took several sleepless hours last night, but in the end, I decided it wasn't truths I'm worried about...but lies. Big, fat, dangerous misconceptions that have no business in my step children's heads. So I'm on a mission to never teach my stepdaughters (or any future children of my own) lies that could be the difference between a good life and a great life.

Grades are everything.

I'd be telling a big, fat lie myself, if I said I wasn't already kind of guilty of this one. So maybe I just promise to no longer tell this lie. It's a hard line to walk when you want to push the importance of grades, while simultaneously being aware that there's no way your kid is ever going to be asked to give a deep dive into why Romeo and Juliet were destined for an early grave. Grades do make a difference, yes. I mean, if kids flunk 8th grade English, then consequently, 9th grad English will be even tougher. But I grew up in a time where anything below an A was unacceptable. It made me crazy. Rather than listening to what the teacher said, I was thinking, "If I get a C on my next test, that takes my grade to a 89%, which is a B. And I'm dead."

I understand the importance of the basic 3: reading, writing arithmetic. (And I think we should throw science in there, too.) But if my stepkid sucks at public speaking and bombs Speech and Drama, there's no way I'm telling her she's not going to get into college because of it. Which leads me to the next lie I won't tell.

College is a necessity

I'm just going to say it...I'm not 100% sure both of my stepkids will go to college for several reasons. The largest reason among them being that Mama Ex does not believe college is important, and would rather the children find a Sugar Daddy early on to take care of them. With that kind of mentality being pushed at them 65% of the time, it's a tall order to sway them the other way. Hubs and I continually push that college will make getting a well paid job easier, but even that's kind of a lie. Think of all the kids graduating college with $80,000+ in student loan debt that are moving back home and working at Kohl's. A college degree does not mean a well paying job anymore - and maybe it never did. I would much rather push working hard for your dream, whatever that may be. Maybe my stepkid has mad comedic talent and wants to write the next "Friends." Maybe an internship would give her everything she needs to make that dream a reality. Perhaps my youngest stepdaughter loves working on cars and wants to start her own detailing business, and an associate's degree is really all she needs. Bottom line, the "you must go to college" sermon is so 1996. I want to think bigger and differently, and that's what I'll encourage my stepkids to do as well.

Waiting for marriage is the best way to go

My parents' "sex talk" was pretty simple, and said with creased eyebrows and wringing hands. "Sex is when A goes into B, and don't do it until you're married or God will know and you'll burn in hell. Okay? Dinner's ready."

My approach is a bit different based on life experience. I dated the same guy on and off for almost 8 years. We loved each other and had a perfectly lovely relationship - for kids that were 18. But if I had held out on sleeping with him, I don't know that I would've have figured out that we were totally wrong for each other. Sex (or lack thereof) would have become the epicenter of our relationship at that tender age. Every move would have centered around "WHEN ARE WE GOING TO DO IT, ALREADY?" The fact that I broke my parents' rule and slept with him after waiting for 6 months was probably one of the scariest things I'd ever done, but looking back, I'm so glad I did it. It matured me. It made me understand what a real relationship involved. Before, sex was this sacred and scary thing that I could only do with one person. Ever. Once I did it with someone I truly loved and had a great experience, it was no longer scary or evil. I understood it was something special to be done with someone I loved. In college, the boyfriend and I broke up (several times) and when I dated other guys, I could take sex or leave it. It wasn't my reason for dating. I wasn't afraid of it, and I felt in control of it. That's how I want my step daughter's to feel: in control. I want them to understand their bodies and understand what sex is about, so that some a-hole with a red Mustang and a mustache can't use it to manipulate them and get them knocked up. Which leads me to...

You can get pregnant at any time, in any position, fully clothed and while on your period.

I know I wasn't the only one that was told this lie growing up. We all heard the story about the stupid girl that dry humped her boyfriend and somehow the baby juice went through his jeans, past her Z Cavaricci's, through her underwear and up into her vagina where a magical baby was made. IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU!!!

Nope. I won't do it to my stepkids. I am a firm believer in facts, not made up lies used to scare and intimidate rather than educate and empower. No one ever explained my cycle to me after 6th grade sex education class. And all I remember from that experience was trying not to laugh when the 65 year old lady said the word "penis" and "ejaculation." At that age, I was so freaked out about this impending period thing that could happen at any time that I wasn't even listening to how a baby is actually made.

(And for the record, it's way harder than they make it sound.)

As a woman struggling with infertility, I want to pass facts and information along to my step daughters. I want them to understand what is happening to their body each month, and why their boobs hurt and what could happen if they have sex at a time when they're ovulating. When I was 18, I thought ovulation was something the moon did around the sun.

I realize there are freak scenarios where people get pregnant on their period, and that is frankly, completely outside the point. If my stepchildren are comfortable enough talking to me or their mom or dad about sex and pregnancy, then they will likely be comfortable enough to talk to us about prevention when the time comes. I was terrified to talk to my Mom about birth control, so I just didn't get any and hoped for the best. I was fortunate that I didn't get pregnant before I was ready, but so many others aren't that lucky.

 If you get a job, you keep it. Forever and ever and ever and ever and ever...

My father worked at the same company for 15 years right out of high school, and only moved on because the company went under. Hubs' father has never worked anywhere other than where he got his first job post-college. He's been there nearly 40 years.

Me? I got a job out of college and moved to another one three months later. Than, nine months after that I moved again. Then two years after that. Then two and a half years after that. I've now been with a company I love for over two years and have no desire to go elsewhere. But it took me 7 years to get here. Now, before you go ballistic and call me a job hopper, I'll do it for you. I was a job hopper out of college. I had a degree, and as soon as I got to my first job, I realized I hated it. I hated being behind a desk 40 hours a week making meager money for a boss I hated. My parents all but flipped out, saying, "But they have dental! And 401k! Don't you dare quit!" So I quit and found something else that had dental and 401k.

My point is, if I had stayed at that job I hated, I never would have to do better for myself. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with longevity at a company. It certainly looks better on a resume. But if you're miserable, aren't you doing yourself and the company a disservice? Yes, you are. I will teach my stepchildren that the first isn't always best. (That lesson works with sex, too, by the way.) I want to challenge my step daughters to keep pushing, to keep looking for the job that will make them feel proud and excited and motivated if the one they have isn't holding up its end of the bargain.

It wasn't easy for me. I was fired from one job and laid off from another. I struggled. I cried. But I learned a lesson from each employer I worked for. And looking back, each one of my jobs prepared me for the next, culminating in a career I actually look forward to every day. And if, someday, the job I currently hold fails to stimulate me the way it does now, I'll be on the search for something that does. If my step daughters land one job that lasts them 50 years, I will be just as proud as I would if it takes them 15 jobs to find what makes them happy.

And that's the truth.

What lies will you never tell you children or stepchildren? Do you worry about the lies they're learning from other kids and adults? How do you handle it?

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