If I knew then what I know now – Survey Responses

Part of our goal in undertaking this project is to learn about the lessons that people have taken from their own childhoods, and which parts of them they are bringing forward into their adult lives. For better or worse, we are shaped by the ways we grow up. One area that is often sigificantly impacted by our upbringing is how we approach dating and romance.

As part of our survey on family life, we asked the question “What do you wish your parents had told you before you started dating?”

Lots of respondents seemed to think it was for the best that their parents didn’t tell them much:

“I did not date until I was out of the house and living in my own space in part because I did not want to discuss sex, relationships, or contraception with them. I wanted to be 18 and able to go down to Planned Parenthood on my own, and have my own living space before I had any intimate relationships. I lost my virginity at 20 and I am glad I waited, both because I did not have to worry about the destructive influence of my family, and because waiting made me confident enough to have sex because I wanted to, not because a partner wanted me to.

Nothing, they are way too Conservative and prejudiced

I think they provided a very strong example of what not to do. I’m glad they didn’t tell me anything.

Plenty of others felt that they were given plenty of good advice. I counted all the one-word “nothing” answers in this category:

They didn’t miss anything. I felt prepared to the best of a 70’s childhood and 80’s teen years could be.

They told me some things and helped a bit.

They pretty much covered everything

The last group of answers, though, are my favorite. Not all of them are exactly heartwarming, but I think that’s to be expected. A few things people wish their parents had told them:

That there is lots of trial and error, that sex is good as long as you are being careful, that it doesn’t matter what kind of sexuality I end up having…

To take risks and explore. That mistakes happen and there’s lots of fish in the sea. That there’s no such thing as “the one”.

I could write a book about this! I wish they’d told me to listen to my feelings, to demand respect from boys, to use condoms, to allow myself to be the dominant/pursuer if that was my inclination, and that female orgasms exist and are just as important as male orgasms.

I don’t know if I would have heard it at the time, especially from my folks, but I needed to hear about how to pick partners instead of just going with whatever was happening.

Don’t take early dating too seriously. Until you are ready to marry (or establish other kinds of long-term relationships), don’t even think about entering such relationships. By ready, I mean being financially independent and in the workforce.

not to compromise my body with men- to really trust myself and say no and that THAT is totally okay. to this day, i am amazed by my female friends and how many of us share a common story of giving our bodies over out of confusion when that is something we really didn’t want to do. more empowerment.

I wish someone had told me dating didn’t have to look like my parents’ relationship while also not requiring me to completely avoid conflict.

This set of answers makes a lot of sense to me. Despite the huge importance that we place on romantic relationships, we seem to approach them as though they are entirely self-explanatory, or as if there is no skill development necessary to make the most of them. How can we change the attitude that one of the most important areas of our lives is one about which we rarely have conversations with our kids?


image courtesy hybrid nation

An upside to Jealousy

Jealousy is a funny thing. It can creep up on a person in sneaky and unexpected ways, but it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing when it shows up.

Carlos and I have been apart for a month. For a month, he’s been sleeping alone, while I’ve had the company of our wiggly, gassy baby and our wiggly, gassy dog.

He spent a month jealous of the time that I was getting to spend with our littles, of the warm embrace of family bed, and hands-on parenting. He wasn’t seething with jealousy, but he felt pain at missing out on the things that he loves, which is entirely reasonable.

While he was enduring that hardship, I was dealing with the flip side: during one lovely afternoon, my folks watched Rockford while I took a three hour nap. That nap was the longest I’ve slept alone in a bed since immediately post-partum. And let me tell you, that was some sweet, glorious sleep. I think the dog might have been in bed with me, but no human hands touched me while I was sleeping. I didn’t have a lingering eye on whether Rock was going to take a dive off the edge of the bed. It was, without question, some of the most restful sleep that I can remember having.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love co-sleeping, I love our baby, I love family bed. I am not unsupported. But while Carlos was jealous of my time with our family, I was jealous of the unencumbered, quiet sleep he was getting away from us.

I guess this is another of those “the grass is always greener” situations that come up all the time in relationships. I might be totally jealous of the things that I imagine when I look into your world, but I have no idea what it’s actually like to be in there, or what you see when you look out. Of course, that’s not always true – we can talk about things and gain some understanding and perspective. As we grow in relationships with people, we gain insight into their drives and needs and desires. Carlos didn’t have to tell me that he missed sleeping with us, and I wasn’t surprised when he did. He doesn’t get ‘touched out,’ but he knows what I mean when I talk to him about it.

Often when we talk about jealousy, especially in romantic-partner relationships, there’s a feeling in the room that no good can ever come of it. Certainly no good comes from internalizing it and stewing, but we think there’s a strong case to be made for recognizing and talking about the feelings that come up in life. This is a small-stakes example – we were in this set of circumstances for a limited amount of time, and for specific reasons. Nonetheless, it presented Carlos and me with the opportunity to practice and refine one of the basic skills that keeps our relationship working – active, thoughtful communication. It’s not rocket science, but it is a tool, and like any tool you want to use, it needs to be kept sharp.

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Eating sweet potatoes

Remember when we used to write about food all the time? I have to admit that my pregnancy kind of took away some of my love of talking about food. Maybe it was the unsolicited opinions for strangers, but I think, honestly, it might have just been the sheer volume of constant eating that did me in. I love food, but spending so much time with my eating at the mercy of someone else made it less fun for me to talk (and think) about. It seems like just yesterday that our little RJ was a squirmy passenger in my belly, making all manner of demands about what I should be eating, and now here he is today, sitting up and crawling, and feeding himself avocado for lunch. Oh my, how time flies.

When he started out, we called him Blueberry Danger, because it was funny, and eventually it became clear that the thing he wanted me to eat was fruit. All the fruit. All the time. No, really. ALLTHEFRUITALLTHETIME. Like, pounds of strawberries in a day, or a whole pineapple, or several grapefruit one after another. It was both awesome and bizarre. But I obeyed! Because, hey, fruit! And also, the non-fruit cravings were so few and so specific that it seemed silly to ignore them. And then he was born, which was a whole thing, and I spent several more months eating all the food in sight, to fulfill my duties as a factory that turned food into other food.

Right about Christmas, RJ started figuring out that the big people were doing something with their mouths, and a week or so later realized that they are eating something that’s not breastmilk. OMG, YOU GUYS! Being a baby and a jerk, as soon as he figured out that people were enjoying something that he wasn’t getting, he wanted in on that action. I mean, seriously. During one lunch, Carlos and I had to trade him off multiple times just so we could each eat our sandwich, and he still ended up stealing a big piece of lettuce from Carlos’s salad and trying to intercept the french fries of the woman next to us.

Now, finally, at six months old, we’re starting to do the eating thing in the other direction: I wiggle around in front of him, and demand that he eat the things that I want! Okay, it doesn’t go exactly like that. In reality, he tries to grab everything that anyone appears to be eating, and, if successful, proceeds to smear it in his eyebrows. He’s not super great with the mechanics of eating just yet. But so enthusiastic!

So, we’ve started solid foods, which is awesome and also way more work than just making baby milk. On the one hand: sweet potatoes! THE SWEET POTATOES THAT WE EAT! I bake a sweet potato to perfection (thank you for reminding me how perfect they are, Mark Bittman), let it cool to warm-ish, and give him a pointy end like an ice cream cone and eat my own with him! I DO NOT HAVE WORDS TO ADEQUATELY EXPRESS HOW MUCH I ENJOY THIS!

His love of sweet potatoes is my favorite proof that he really is my child.

But there is another hand. And on that other hand: none of us can live on sweet potatoes alone, and now we have to take the digestive development of a tiny screamer into account when making dinner. Having just typed that, it kind of looks like I’m complaining about having to think about my kid while making dinner. File that under: well, duh, parenting is work. Thankfully, beyond sweet potatoes, he seems to really be enjoying most of the things he’s tried, including green beans, jicama, and the drawstrings on my hoodie. We are starting to realize that the next stage (after “one new food at a time”) is going to be pureeing up our dinner wholesale, and that we’re probably going to need to cut out dairy products when we do that. Sad faces all around, but no cow’s milk for babies just yet.

So! Pro: I get to eat ALL THE SWEET POTATOES and lots of other veggies and fruits and generally good foods. Con: I have to think about what I’m feeding us, and the prospect of giving up dairy. We’ll call “pooping” a neutral, because, well, everyone poops. And I think my “Cons” are clearly actually “Pros,” so, I’ll quit my complaining. grass in his toes

During this process, I’m really enjoying having a big community of parents on Facebook, sharing the mundane stories of every day life. I like hearing about how your kids are doing! They give me guidance about my own kid! I can’t wait until we get to have real time for them to play together (and us too!).

(The pictures are from his first meeting with something he didn’t try to eat – grass. He was not particularly a fan, it turns out.)