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The second week of first grade, my 6-year-old son came home and told me, very seriously, "Mama, I have a girlfriend, and I love her."

I didn't laugh at him or tell him he is too young to have a girlfriend, and I didn't minimize his feelings. We had a very serious conversation about his girlfriend: what he likes about her, what they talk about at lunch, and what games they play on the playground at recess. I asked questions about her; some he knew the answers to, and some he didn't.

Nearly every day after that for some time, we talked about his girlfriend, and in every conversation, in some way, we talked about consent — what it means, what it looks like, and how I expect him to act.


I didn't objectify the little girl by referring to her as "your little girlfriend" as I've heard other adults tease their own children. I didn't make jokes about him being a heartbreaker or tell him that the girls will be falling all over him by high school. I didn't tell him his feelings don't matter — and I definitely didn't tell him her feelings don't matter. I think the seeds of misogyny are planted with words as much as behavior, and I treated his emotions seriously because, for him, being in love for the first time is the most serious thing in the world. He will remember this little girl just as I remember my first boyfriend, and how I handle things now is setting the tone for the future.

I wasn't expecting to have these conversations in the context of a relationship quite so soon.

His older brother is more introverted, with the exception of the occasional fleeting crush. But I have been talking about consent and modeling it since my sons were babies.

The idea that young men need to learn about consent in high school or college goes hand-in-hand with the idea that sex education shouldn't be taught before then, either. Consent is an ongoing conversation in our home, framed to suit the situation. But now that my son has a girlfriend, I'm finding ways to introduce the concept of consent within a relationship on a level that he can understand.

From the time my sons were very little — before they could even talk — I started teaching them about body autonomy and consent.

"Do you want me to tickle you?" "Can I pick you up?" "Do you want me to brush your hair?"

I would ask whenever I could, waiting for their response before proceeding. Yes, of course, there are times when a young child needs to be picked up or hair needs to be brushed whether they want it or not, but there are just as many times when children can be given — and deserve — the right to choose. And so I let them decide whenever I can.

Teaching them that no one can touch them without permission was the first step in teaching them about respecting the boundaries of others.

With my sons at 6 and 7 years old now, I model the respect I expect them to extend to others. It is an ongoing lesson, as the most important lessons always are.

Of course they fight — what siblings don't? But I teach them that, whatever the game or activity, if someone says "Stop!" or "No!" they are to stop what they are doing.

To that end, I try to stay out of their squabbles and give them time to sort them out. If they don't stop, there are consequences. We talk about how it feels to have someone keep chasing, tickling, or bothering you when you've told them to stop. I watch their empathy for others grow as they consider how it feels to be little and have grownups want to touch their faces or hug them without permission. They're learning, and it gives me hope.

But now I'm having daily conversations with my youngest son about girlfriends and what is — and isn't — OK.

He knows he has to ask if she wants a hug before he touches her. He knows that it's rude to refer to her as "my girlfriend" when talking about her and that it's better, and more respectful, to use her name.

He knows that if he gives her a gift, he should give her a chance to respond instead of inundating her with more gifts. "Let's wait and see how she feels about this lovely picture you made her before you draw another one," I tell him, explaining how overwhelming it can be to have someone give you gifts when you're not ready for them or haven't had a chance to return the affection. Of course, I'm thinking about the boy I knew my junior year of high school who would constantly leave me trinkets of his affection at my locker — affection that wasn't reciprocated and made me uncomfortable, especially after I asked him to stop.

I don't know if I'm doing this right, honestly.

There are times when I think to myself, "But he's only 6! Why are we even having this conversation?" And then I remind myself, "If not now, when?"

I know what it means to be a girl in this world, and my sons are starting to hear my #MeToo stories, the ones they're old enough to understand. How do I talk about what's wrong in the world if I'm not willing to talk about the right behaviors, the right way to treat women?

I know my sons have a good role model in their father and in our marriage. I know they watch how my husband interacts with me, and I see it reflected in how they treat me. It's a start, but I know it's not enough in a world that sends mixed messages to boys about girls and how to treat them.

It's been eye-opening, seeing how my children regard consent.

I've seen how those early lessons in teaching them about their own right to say no have gone a long way in teaching them the empathy and respect they show for others now.

I know we're not done; we're only just starting. I know it's only going to get more complicated as they get older.

But at the end of the day, no matter their age, the core lesson is the same: respect people, care about how they are feeling in your interactions with them, and remember that others have a right to feel differently than you do and to set boundaries for what is OK with them. The situations will change, but those words will be repeated again and again.

Teaching consent is not a one-time discussion. It's something I want my sons to think about every single day.

This story originally appeared on Ravishly and is reprinted here with permission. More from Ravishly:

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

popular

Woman left at the altar by her fiance decided to 'turn the day around’ and have a wedding anyway

'I didn’t want to remember the day as complete sadness.'

via Pixabay

The show must go on… and more power to her.

There are few things that feel more awful than being stranded at the altar by your spouse-to-be. That’s why people are cheering on Kayley Stead, 27, from the U.K. for turning a day of extreme disappointment into a party for her friends, family and most importantly, herself.

According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.

“[A groomsman] called one of the maids of honor to explain that the groom had ‘gone.’ We were told he had left the caravan they were staying at in Oxwich Bay (the venue) at 12:30 a.m. to visit his family, who were staying in another caravan nearby and hadn’t returned. When they woke in the morning, he was not there and his car had gone,” Jordie Cullen wrote on a GoFundMe page.

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Education

How a 3,800-year-old stone tablet helped create modern legal systems

'Innocent until proven guilty' isn't that new of a concept.

Kind of looks like the Matrix code...

The modern justice system is certainly not without its flaws, however most can agree that the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” is one that (when not abused) stands as the foundation of what fair due process looks like. This principle, it turns out, isn’t so modern at all. It can actually be traced all the way back to nearly 3,800 years ago.

historyLady Justice, the image of impartial fairness. Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

English barrister Sir William Garrow is known for coining the "innocent until proven guilty" phrase between the 18th and 19th century, after insisting that evidence be provided by accusers and thoroughly tested in court. But this notion, as radical as it seemed at the time, can, in fact, be credited to an ancient Babylonian king who ruled Mesopotamia.

During his reign from 1792 to 1750 B.C., Hammurabi left behind a legacy of accomplishments as a ruler and a diplomat. His most influential contribution was a series of 282 laws and regulations that were painstakingly compiled after he sent legal experts throughout his kingdom to gather existing laws, then adapted or eliminated them in order to create a universal system.

Those laws were inscribed on a large, seven-foot stone monument, and they were known as the Code of Hammurabi.

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Pop Culture

TikTok star's surprising method for finding good Chinese food is blowing people's minds

Yelp can be a helpful tool for scoping out food joints, but maybe not in the way you think.

Photo by Debbie Tea on Unsplash

Different cultures view service differently.

Content creator Freddy Wong has a brilliantly easy way to find authentic Chinese food.

As he reveals in a mega viral video that’s racked up 9.4 million views on TikTok and 7.7 million views on Twitter, the trick (assuming you live in a major metropolitan area) is to “go on Yelp and look for restaurants with 3.5 stars, and exactly 3.5 stars." Not 3. Not 4. 3.5.

He then backs up his argument with some pretty undeniable photo evidence.

First, he pulls up an image of a Yelp page from P.F. Chang’s. With only 2.5 stars, one can tell the food is “obviously bad.” Alternatively, Din Tai Fung—a globally recognized Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant—has four stars.

Sounds good right? Wrong. In this case, “too many stars” means that “too many white people like it,” indicating that the restaurant is being judged on service rather than food quality. According to Wong, if “the service is too good, the food is not as good as it could be.”

He then pulls up the Yelp page for a couple of local Chinese restaurants, both of which have 3.5 stars. The waiters at these establishments might “not pay attention to you,” he admits, adding that they might even be “rude.” But, Wong attests, “it’s going to taste better.”

@rocketjump

Why I only go to Chinese restaurants with 3.5 star ratings

♬ original sound - RocketJump

"The dumplings here are better [than Din Tai Fung's]. I've been here," he says of the 3.5 star Shanghai Dumpling House. Considering his Twitter profile boasts a “James Beard Award winning KBBQ Gourmand'' title, it seems like he knows what he’s talking about.

So, why is this 3.5 rule the “sweet spot”? As Wong explains, it all comes down to different “cultural expectations.”

“In Asia, they’re not as proactive. They’re not going to come up to you, they’re not going to just proactively give you refills, you need to flag down the waiter,” he says, noting the different interpretations of service.

"People on Yelp are insufferable,” he continues, arguing that “they're dinging all these restaurants because the service is bad,” but the food is so good that it balances out the bad service. Hence, a 3.5-star rating. His reasoning is arguably sound—people do often give absurdly scathing reviews that in no way accurately reflect a restaurant’s food quality.

“A good Yelp review doesn’t mean it’s a good restaurant — it simply means the restaurant is good at doing things that won’t hurt their online rating,” Wong said in an interview with Today, adding that “highly rated Yelp restaurants are often those with counter service and limited menus, minimizing potential negative interaction with staff.”

He also added the caveat, “I don’t have anything against those places, but I think people who only eat at the ‘highest rated’ restaurants on online review sites are only eating at the most boring restaurants.”

A ton of people in the comments seem to back Wong’s theory.

best chinese food

100% accurate, some say

TikTok

Plus, the theory seems to not be limited to just Chinese restaurants, further implying that maybe there’s more of a cultural misunderstanding, rather than any real lack of quality.

thai food near me

No drink refills but the food is fire.

TikTok

yelp reviews, yelp

2.8 is the new 5

TikTok

One of the gifts that our modern world provides is the opportunity to truly experience and appreciate other cultures. Since food is easily one of the most accessible (and enjoyable) ways to do that, perhaps we should prioritize seeking authenticity, rather than rely on a flawed and superficial rating system.

As Wong told Today, “I hope it encourages people to go out and eat more food from not only Chinese restaurants, but restaurants representing the whole world of cultural cuisines.”