I Am Not Raising Dead Fish

With four girls in the house, the subject of boys – usually, relationships with boys – comes up almost every day in some form or another. I see them trying to wrap their minds around this incredibly murky and elusive subject – the male species – as if it’s a thousand-piece puzzle they have to solve overnight, and I want to help.

Sometimes I’m asked to play the role of listener, but more often than not, they want to know WWMD (What Would Mom Do). And honestly, at least on this specific topic, I vacillate between being thrilled that they’re asking for my opinion, and sweating bullets because I don’t know jack about relationships and the male species. Oh, I know what I read in Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, in The Rules many years ago, and in all the other marriage and relationship books I’ve been through, not to mention just about every Cosmo article on the topic. I even know what societal norms and good etiquette are, too.

After all of that, and 44 years of time in the trenches, you’d think I could get it together enough to offer wise counsel when they ask for it, but nope. And my lack of confidence in this area is apparent in the inconsistent feedback I’ve been giving to the girls. Behold, the evidence.

Scenario 1:  Then 9 year-old says she is going to ask a boy out. I explain very gently that, traditionally, the boy asks the girl out. She says she thinks he likes her but is too shy to ask. Yeah, I say. In that case you may just have to club him over the head and drag him back to your cave.

Scenario 2:  Twin tells me that a little boy she briefly dated in 2nd grade wants to date her again. What should I do, she asks. Don’t do it, I say. Move on, move forward. Never go backwards when it comes to relationships.

Scenario 3:  Oldest explains that she really wants to go to Homecoming with this kid, and asks us what she should do. My answer: “I don’t know.” Greg: “Drop subtle hints.” He proceeds to give her his definition of what a subtle hint looks like. I’m more confused after this demonstration, and all I can come up with is, “Let him make the first move.”

Recent events in our house have caused me to re-think my usual brand of feedback, which as you can see is generally just a brain-to-mouth-and-out kind of a response. And what comes out really depends on how I’m feeling that day, emphasis on I’m, and not what I really want for my girls to hear and know in their heart. So I feel the need to do them a solid and get this one right.

I ran across this poster yesterday on Hey Prints, and it resonated with me in a big way. I had a moment of parenting clarity so I thought I’d share it, because we all know how brief those moments are. Talk about murky and elusive.

Only-Dead-Fish-v2-l_largeSo here’s the thing: I’M NOT RAISING DEAD FISH, Y’ALL! I’m not raising dead fish! I want them to swim wherever and however they want. I want them to choose their course, however impossible I may think it is, or however challenging it proves to be. Doesn’t matter, because they will be swimming, and choosing, and LIVING. Most importantly, they will be living, and living authentically.

So my message to them going forward, when I’m asked for advice on this topic, is so very simple and consistent.

I want you to do what feels right to you, Emily. I want you to do what feels right to you, Madison. I want you to do what feels right to you, Cameron, and to you, Quincy. Stay true to yourself. And I’m going to do the same. No exceptions.

Love, Carmen (a.k.a. Mom)