bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: boys

great programming for young boys courtesy of PBS

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Every Sunday night, all summer long, my 4 year old has been asking me this question:  “Mama, Mama, Mama, does Supewhewo Camp stawt tomowwow?”

Finally, two days ago I was able to give him the answer he so desperately wanted to hear, “Yes, buddy!  Yes!  Tomorrow is the first day of Superhero Camp!”

“Woohoooo!” he yelped while punching at the air with his tiny, happy fists.  “Mama, Mama, Mama, can I weaw my Supewman T-shiwt?”

“Sure, bud!”

“Is it clean?”  (Sadly my response is too often what he so desperately doesn’t want to hear but that day he was in luck.)

“Uh-huh.”

“YESSSSSSS!!!!!”

He took off for his room to pack a bag and lay out his clothes for the following day.  Then he came back down, “But Mama.  Mama.  Mama,” he said patting my rear end, “I need anothew Supewhewo shiwt for the next day.”

“You can wear your Wild Kratts T-shirt, dude!  Chris Kratt is the best superhero ever!”

“The Kwatt bwothews awen’t supewhewos.”

“Whhaaaattt???  Of course they are!  They rescue animals don’t they?”

“But, Mama, they don’t F-LLLYYYYYY.”

“When they have on their falcon creature power suits they can.”

“OH YAH!!!!!  I’m going to be Chwis Kwatts.  WOOHOOOO!  Can I weaw a cape wiff my T-shiwt?”

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If you have a little one at home, you are probably familiar with the Kratt brothers on PBS.  They are animal experts who are known for getting down and dirty with creatures of all kinds, first with their show Zoboomafoo and later with their hit show Wild Kratts.  They don’t hesitate to roll in the mud or tromp though a swamp…  and they’re fun to watch.  My kids love these guys.  Especially my nature-loving boy.  Honestly, “nature-loving” might be an understatement.  Nature-ADORING, Nature-OBSESSING, Nature-WORSHIPPING boy is more on the mark.  My oldest daughter regularly entertains us by singing the Wild Kratts theme song to the rhythm of her own clapping hands while Nature Boy spins wildly in circles and hurls his body onto the floor.  (This primitive behavior is considered dancing in my household.)

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What I love about Chris and Martin Kratt, and why I’m writing about them today on BUBs, is that they’ve created a wholesome program that is centered on compassion, education, nature AND adventure.  This is especially important for our young boys who are almost always attracted to shows, events and toys that involve destruction and fighting.  Caring for and rescuing animals is a beautiful lesson in compassion and I’m standing up applauding these guys and the work they do.

Animals are a wonderful way to teach our little boys about reflexive compassion.  When we witness an animal in trouble, compassion is automatic.  And once that feeling of compassion becomes part of a child’s emotional foundation, they can have a better understanding of how to apply it when dealing with people.  Let’s face it, it can be hard to have compassion for humans sometimes.  As a mindful adult I find that I consistently have to remind myself to be compassionate when people around me are acting like jerks.  Imagine how challenging that is for a kid!

So there was a study that came out a few years ago.  I can’t remember who conducted it, but it was a happiness study based on words posted by children on social media sites (happy, love, peace, etc.).  Guess which state was voted to have the happiest kids in America?  (Go ahead and play some thought-stimulating Jeopardy music in your head while you ponder…  Doo!  Do-do-do-do-do-do.  Bom, bum!)

New Hampshire!

Yah baby.  Go New England!  I’ve gotta say, I’m not surprised.  Have you ever been to a New Hampshire State Fair?   One conversation with a young person about how they feel when caring for their animals is all you need to be convinced of the cornerstone of their happiness and kindness.  Farmer kids and 4-H kids are so damn nice.  The way these kids love and care for animals is inspiring.  So in a state like NH where nature prevails and farms are everywhere, I’m venturing a guess that the reason for being the happiest state in the nation has something to do with animals.  At least that’s my unscientific, un-researched theory.  But pretty a good one, right?

Kindness and compassion, though two different qualities, support each other in every way.  It’s impossible to have one without the other.

So in this spaghetti test called life, I suggest to toss the Kratt brothers against the wall and see if they stick.  My son is still only in-the-making of a man but from what I see so far, I have little doubt that his deep and passionate love for animals and nature are helping him to build a strong foundation of compassion and kindness.   Big props to my favorite superheroes for their contribution in supporting his development.  PBS made a great investment when they plunked their taxpayer dollars down on Wild Kratts.  Check your local guide for listings.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

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Please share if you enjoy this.  😀 ❤

boys won’t be boys

Men completely baffle me.  No offense, guys.  As a gender, you’re real go-getters – strong, handsome, and a very necessary component in procreation.  But honestly, between the insatiable need for power (be it in the form of money, attention, strength or remote control handling) and the twisted inclination towards professional wrestling, porn and realistically bloody video games, I can’t decide if I should run away from you screaming in terror or just move into a lesbian commune and wash my hands of you entirely.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately thinking about men.  Young men.  Well, boys really.  I’m rearing one currently.  He’s four, the caboose on a train of three older girls.  Generally, he’s very sensitive and sweet.  He cares about people and animals.  He articulates his feelings and is well-behaved.  At least I think he’s all of those things…  until he finds a stick on our post-winter lawn and immediately begins whacking the dog with it.  Then imagines that stick as weapon and fires it dramatically at his sisters who are chalking quietly in the driveway.

There are more boyish antics, of course.  The tasmanian-devil-style thrashing he displays for what seems to be no reason at all.  The make-pretend enactments of a werewolf mauling a honey badger in the forbidden forest.  The wet sponge ambushes on his sisters at bedtime as they brush their teeth.

I never taught him these things.  I’m pretty sure my husband didn’t either.  We don’t initiate or encourage this type of play.  But he’s a boy.  And he seems naturally wired for bursts of destruction.

This is no excuse.  Absolutely not.  I refuse to lie down and say, “Boys will be boys.”  I’m fighting this overused saying, not with my sharp claws or stick weapons, but with kindness, discipline and love.

I’ve also enlisted my daughters to teach our wild little wolf cub how to become a respectable human being since girls generally enter life with more compassionate tendencies.  It’s not a hard lesson, really, this lesson in compassion.  But it needs to be taught daily.  Daily.  Daily.  Daily.

This past weekend I had 7 kids here for a sleepover.  We watched Indiana Jones.  During the blood and guts portions, they watched unfazed.  But when Indy started making out with his leading lady, the kids all belted out, “Eeeeewwww!!!  Disgusting!  Hide your eyes!”

I was appalled, “You little turkeys mean to say you’ll watch happily as bloody monkey brains are served for dinner but Doctor Jones planting a kiss on his girlfriend makes you want to throw up?  Come on!  Love is beautiful and natural.  Hurting people is eeeeewwwww.  Get your priorities straight, small people!”

Whether or not my words hit home, I’m unsure.  My intent, however, is always deeper than a 30 second lecture at a sleepover party, or even a 500 word essay on mothering a typical boy.

Mothers of boys have a precious opportunity to co-create and inspire young boys who become compassionate and mindful men.  There are no other more important qualities for a man to possess.  When all actions, all intentions, all thoughts are created with mindful compassion, humans will be on our way to world peace.  And we mothers are 100% responsible for instilling this quality in our sons.

The end of sex-trafficking?  The solution to corporate greed?  The dissolution of hate crimes?  The pacification of violence?  This can all happen through compassion.

We spend so much time trying to fix the problems we have.  Counsel the women who have been exploited.  Mend the planet that has been ravaged.  Heal the people who have been pained.  Why not skip the pain and spend that time nurturing boys who value love over destruction?

No four-year-old boy thinks, “When I grow up, I want to pimp out 14 year old girls…  Or maybe I’ll be a bigot…  Or a banker who invests in companies that rape our planet of resources…  Or maybe a dictator that stockpiles nuclear weapons.”  I know mine doesn’t anyway.  So while they’re young, and while we mommies have control, let’s teach our boys how to love a woman, how to love a planet, how to love their enemies.  The world will thank us for it in 30 years or so.

Please share this post with mothers of boys…  or anyone you think might enjoy it.  I so appreciate your shares, likes, tweets and comments.  Peace!

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

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Two of XG’s big sisters coach him through an Air & Space exhibit. He’s in control… at least he thinks he is.

refocus and recharge

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I heard the news of Friday’s shooting while standing in my front yard, waiting for my kids to walk home from school.  I consciously decided not to turn on the TV or the radio that day or for the rest of the weekend.  This is why:

On September 11, 2001, I had just arrived at work, a small office in Back Bay, Boston.  The office was quiet and I was taking a few minutes to settle in when the buzz of a ringing phone cut through the room.  It was my step-dad.  “I don’t want to scare you, but have you heard from your sister today?”  “No, why?”  “I think you should turn on your TV and call your sister.”  I hung up with him, then did as he suggested.  Just as I flipped on the tiny black and white monitor, I saw the second plane plunge.  I frantically called my sister, only to hear, “I’m sorry, all circuits are busy.  Please try again later.”  I got this recording non-stop for I don’t know how long.  Eventually, my sister called and said she was fine, on a train home from Battery Park and surrounded by ash-covered New Yorkers.

I looked out my office window and saw the Prudential Tower standing tall over my Newbury Street office.  I picked up my keys and got the hell out of there.  Walking home, I saw a girl my age sitting on the stoop of her building, bawling, screaming into her cell phone, “No!  No!  No!”  It was awful.  I stared.  Witnessing someone experiencing tragedy is conflicting.  My humanness drew me into her.  I rubbernecked.  I thought,  Am I going to be screaming on my own stoop later today?  I picked up my pace and double-timed it home.  I called my (at the time) fiance and begged him to come home.

When he arrived we both sat on the couch and watched CNN for hours.  Watching the planes crash over and over and over and over…  I cried for weeks, continually watching those planes crash over and over and over and over…  I was insatiable.  The tears, the mourning, the sadness, the tragedy, the WHY? WHY? WHY?  It was sickly irresistible to me.  And it really fucked me up.  I think it fucked a lot of us up.  Depression spread across America like the plague.

I liken watching 24 hour news coverage to the incessant conversation that occupies our minds.  The practice of meditation provides us with opportunities to quiet our minds and hush the nagging, rambling voice that precipitates tangled emotions like worry, fear, anger, judgment, grief.  In order to do this, we need to quiet down, turn off the noise.  And once we discipline ourselves enough to turn off the noise, we can find some peace.  It’s the same with news.  We need to turn it off.  Give ourselves a chance to recover from experiencing the horrific, bizarre, disturbing events of Friday.

We do not need to watch the folks in Newtown, Connecticut mourn.  We know they’re mourning.  We do not need to attempt to bear their pain in order to understand that what happened to this community is terribly wrong.  We do not need to absorb every sound bite, be abreast of every development, stare into the face of every lost child, scrutinize the tortured shooter’s soul.  Nothing good will come of it.  It’ll only scare us, depress us, separate us from life and exploit those who are suffering intimately.

It is important for those not directly involved to return to normalcy and to start working on mindful solutions.

There are a few things that immediately strike me when my mind turns towards healing and solutions.

The obvious is strict gun control.  Not stricter.  Strict.  There have been about 4,000 articles written on this subject over the past two days so I won’t delve into the bullshit laws (or lack thereof) on gun control.  I don’t understand why young children are encouraged by parents to shoot, even at target ranges.  Guns are cool?  Guns are fun?  I don’t know about that.  Motown is cool.  Scrabble is fun.  Parents need to encourage their kids to engage in more wholesome activities.

Another thing that comes to mind is the fact that young boys spend hours with their faces in a computer playing graphic, violent video games.  Think about the way we feel after watching hours of horrific news coverage.   We become deeply, emotionally affected.  Children and teens, especially boys, wrap themselves in gaming for endless hours.  They are absolutely internalizing, or at the very least normalizing, the act of pumping bodies full of bullets in bloody battle scenes.  While playing, they are isolated from real people and focused intently on viciously blowing virtual people up for hours on end.  Desensitization.  Fine for military training, not fine for 15 year old boys.  Look what happens to our soldiers when they come back from war:  PTSD, suicide, alcoholism, abuse.  Real war is not fun.  Real battle is not cool.  Why attempt to make it fun or cool through children’s games?  These video games need to be banned.  Or at least monitored.  Until that happens (which it won’t), a viable option for parents to consider may be making kids earn gaming time through compassionate community service.  Volunteer in the community center for an hour, play your sick and twisted game for an hour.  At least it’s an attempt at balance.  Sorry, boys.

Some people will agree with this next one and some people will roll their eyes, but we need to actively teach our children compassion and mindfulness.  Formally.  In schools.  Every day there is more and more scientific evidence that a regular meditation practice helps children to make better choices, feel better about themselves and perform better in school, amongst other things.  Knowing how valuable meditation is for a human’s existence, why wouldn’t we want to incorporate this practice into the school day?  I’m not talking about infusing prayer or religious practice in school (though I honestly wouldn’t mind that).  There is real science that supports the benefits of meditation.  HHDL is pushing for this actively.  Being the righteous bomb that he is, I’m all too happy to lend my support.

But, while we’re on the subject, I can’t help but notice that Sunday mornings just ain’t what they used to be.  When I was a kid, Sundays were reserved for family and church.  My parents never took us to church, but I always remember Sunday mornings as feeling  inexplicably peaceful, which from my adult perspective makes sense.  There’s a natural and palpable energy that results when large groups of people pray simultaneously.  Now parents are forced to choose between church (or whatever) and organized sports.

I was interviewing a local priest last week for a story I’m working and he said that there used to be a gentlemen’s agreement in the community regarding Sunday mornings.  Somewhere along the way that agreement disappeared and play took precedent over prayer.  While this is not necessarily the reason for this modern youthful meltdown, it’s certainly notable.  There’s plenty of time for TV, competition, bickering, playdates, video games throughout the week…  could we reinstitute Sunday mornings?

Kids can’t do this on their own.  They need our help.  They need adults in their lives who can model wholesome behavior, who can engage with them, who can offer them guidance and hope, who can encourage laughter and joy, who can answer big questions about life with openness and love.

We need to ask ourselves, “What can I do?  How can I make this community a better place?  If not me, who?  If not here, where?  If not now, when?”

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

p.s.

There are a hundred other factors that go into these recurring American tragedies – a major one being mental illness.  These are just a few that were in my head today.  If you’d like to offer solution-based thoughts, please do so in the comments below.