When the Internet Hates You


My sons sometimes slip and call me Daddy ... or "dude." My mom has called me by my siblings' names more often than I can count. I may even have been called a bitch once or twice in my lifetime (for no good reason, I assure you - I'm always perfectly sweet, right? Ahem).

But do you know what I've never been called?

A pedophile. A pervert. Deranged. Mentally ill. Disgusting. Sick.

I had never been called any of those things ...

... Until a few days ago.

See, a little while back, I wrote a post here on the blog called "The Naked Truth." You guys liked it. I got one snarky anonymous comment, but for the most part, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Then it was republished on The Huffington Post, with a different title: "Why I Want My Sons to See Me Naked." Then it was mentioned on Redbook Magazine's website ... and Women's Day Magazine's ... and The Blaze ... and HuffPost Canada ... and about a bazillion other websites.

And y'all? All hell has certifiably broken loose.

I have gotten a ton of supportive comments. But I can hardly read and appreciate those, because they're peppered with nasty landmines: This woman is sick. Someone should call child protective services. She's ruining her children. These boys are going to be perverts.

Besides the vitriolic comments, I've gotten bombarded with hate mail. Hate tweets. Hate-Facebook-messages. On one message board was a link to my post with the headline, "Aging, insecure mom tries to find solace in children's acceptance of her body" - followed, of course, by a bunch of people spewing about what a nutjob I am. One woman said she'd never let her kids play at my house ... because, clearly, I flaunt my nakedness every time we have company.

*eye roll*

All I wanted to do was convey how important it is to me that my boys know what a real female body looks like, and not cultivate an "ideal" based on the images they'll inevitably see later of the impossibly thin, airbrushed, and implanted. (If you haven't seen the original post, read it, and you'll see where I'm coming from.)

But here's where the problem lies in our society: many people simply cannot separate female nudity from sexuality. And so when I say I want my boys to see my body, those people apparently picture me strutting stripper-like in front of them in some crotchless undies and a pair of pasties, like, "Come here, boys! Mommy has something to show you!" And it just makes me laugh. Because ... seriously?

There is nothing - I repeat, NOTHING - lascivious or sexual about my sons seeing me unclothed (and honestly, I question the hangups of anyone who thinks otherwise). This is not me spreading out naked on a bed and inviting them to come take a good long gander at my lady-bits. It's not me holding a conversation with them as I trim my pubes with one foot on the bathroom sink. It's me in the shower, and them poking their heads in to say, "Mommy, can we have a snack?" It's me flopping out a boob while we're watching TV and nursing whichever of them I've nursed throughout the years. It's me changing into my pajamas while they sit on my bed and chat with me about their day. It's the boys bursting in to tattle on their brothers while I'm on the toilet. It's random, fleeting, incidental moments where they might happen to catch a glimpse of - gasp! - their mother's naked butt or a little bit of nipple. It's life.

Do I try to teach them about modesty and privacy? Sure. It's my job as their mother. But news flash: kids don't always grasp a concept right away. Sometimes it takes years. My kids are little. They don't care who sees them when they change clothes at this point, and they only remember to poop with the bathroom door closed, like, ten percent of the time.

Here's the deal: I'm not going to give them the impression that my body parts - or theirs - are dirty things that they should be ashamed of. If they have questions about why my body looks different than theirs, I'm going to answer them openly and honestly.

If we keep the female anatomy shrouded in mystery, we indirectly teach our boys that women's bodies are only to be seen for sexual reasons, or to "be sexy." When we don't allow them to see those bodies in a more natural, NON-sexual context, we're perpetuating the objectification of women. We're reinforcing the archaic stereotype that breasts, for example, are solely sexual - and not practical anatomy used to feed babies. I want to let my boys know that a naked woman is NOT always just an "object of desire." That like theirs, our bodies are made to be strong, and functional, and that all body types have their merits.

Why can't people understand that when you're talking about your kids seeing you naked, there's absolutely nothing sexual about it? How hard is that to fathom, seriously? I mean, come on.

It amuses (and amazes) me that people are talking about what a bad example I'm setting for my children while they cyber-bully me. "Yes honey, mommy will be with you in a minute, I'm just telling this perfect stranger that she's a piece of shit parent and that her children are going to grow up to be rapists."

While I can't say I didn't expect some negative comments - after all, I did put myself out there for the world to scrutinize - I am surprised at how far it has gone. And how mean people can be from behind the safety of the computer screen. And how I kinda wish I had just stuck to blogging about poop and writing funny poems. Because, as much as I'd like to say it doesn't, I have to admit ... it stings a little.

But.

Haters gonna hate. And my kids are gonna keep seeing me naked.

... At least until they learn to knock.

45 comments:

  1. I thought your original post was very good, and right on. Sorry that you've had so much hate. Lately, I am convinced that the internet has just made us all crazy and we've become a society that is hell bent on being offended at every last little thing. Drives me bonkers. You just keep on, keepin' on there Rita!

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  2. Well i think your bloody wonderful and i both admire you post(s) and have been inspired by them. My son is only 7 months old at the moment but i wish him to grow up knowing that woman come in all shapes and sizes and to have respect for people as they are. Something which apparently a lot of weird people on the internet have not figured out yet! Basically...Go you lol! :)

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  3. I loved your original post, and love this one too. I grew up in a house where family meetings were held in the bathroom wile my mom used the facilities, or took a shower. And our house is the same. My kids have no problem barging in while I'm dressing or showering, or even when the smell from 5 feet away should be warning of what I'm doing in there. None of us are ashamed of it. And I turned out just fine. So will my kids. So ignore the haters, and good on ya, mama.

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  4. Hey, Rita! Hang in there! I LOVE the blog and this post. You are so funny and have a way of summing up the truth about raising boys. I read every time you post. (Cyber) Bullies suck!

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  5. I read your original post here and thought it was wonderful. I am a mom of 2 boys and it definitely got me thinking about not having to be so modest around them or having to lock the shower door when I bathe. (now I only do it if I want absolute privacy, not cuz I'm scared they'll see my lady parts). :-) I am so sorry this is happening to you... Stay strong and confident. Those with common sense (which I realize are fewer and fewer of us) know exactly what you mean - and even if we can't be a brave and brazen as you, still admire you for it. :-)

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  6. I enjoyed your honesty of this post, the original post, and all your other posts. The world needs more mommas like you.

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  7. I think it's so nice to hear someone who talks and acts and thinks and parents like me! I'm constantly like "seriously? Am I the only person who thinks this way???" Your great. Period. Ignore them. Play some Taylor Swift (the shake it off song... Lol) and dance around all crazy with your boys. At the end of the day the ones who matter know your heart, and those who don't... Well... They don't matter! 😋

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  8. I am shocked with all the hate! Everyone I have shared this with has had absolutely rave reviews and supports the same ideas. We got your back, girl!

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  9. You are awesome! And so brave to post the original post and this one. Don't let those awful people get you down. Your boys are going to grow up to be wonderful people. Since I read your original post, I've relaxed a little about covering up when my 5-year-old son is in the room, remembering he's just little, and it is healthy for him to see a non-airbrushed woman. He has always been way too interested in my boobs! It's a bit awkward ;-)

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  10. Rita,
    I read your article on the Huffington Post site, and was so excited, that I took 15 minutes of precious, boys-are-in-their-room moments to find you. While reading your article, I wanted to shout, "Amen!" Which means a lot coming from a former child of incense. I am also a mother of four boys, three of whom are only a year apart, and I raise my boys the exact same way! Our oldest is 18, and unfortunately, he may catch a glimpse of a breast every now and again when he insists on breaking protocol to ask me if he can spend $5.00 on XBox Live. As he averts his eyes in horror, I remind him that he suckled at this breast as a wee babe. :) I was surprised to read the blog about the backlash you received from the unevolved members of our nation, and I also realized why it was so important I leave you with words of encouragement and a "right on!" This is the first time I have ever tracked a writer down because I was moved by the beautiful truth of their words. Maybe, that can take a little of the sting out of it.

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  11. I would guess that most of the nasty comments are from people who read only the headline and didn't bother to read that actual article. As for those who still felt the need to be insulting even after reading your words and presumably understanding your intent...well, they have bigger problems than a kid seeing their nekkid butt.

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  12. P.S. Lions should never lose sleep over the opinions of sheep. :)

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  13. Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
    And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake
    You just needta shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake it off, shake it off!

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  14. I loved your original post and the positive message it told!! I hope my own son will be able to see his future wife as perfection the way she is!! I love your blog...screw everyone else!!!!

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  15. When I read your original article I was screaming, "YES!" My children have seen me naked since the day they were born. When they were babies, they would get their baths by daddy popping them in the shower with me, me washing them and then passing them back to daddy. I sit in my room naked every day, I sleep naked every night. This has become such a normal thing for them to see that they don't flinch. My oldest is 15 and he still feels free to poke his head in the shower and say, "Hey mom, do you mind if I have a bowl of cereal?" And what I love is, when I say stuff like, "dude, I'm naked", they ALL say the same thing. "So? We've seen you naked since the day we were born. It's natural." Wow. Look. The kid gets it. It's natural. Not sick, not disgusting, just natural. Anyway, I'm glad you didn't listen to the haters because you are not the only one out there who feels the way you do and it was lovely to see the way you worded it. Brava

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  16. Such a shame we have to share a world with people so stupid. You don't need to feel bad about anything you posted Rita, it was an important and beautifully written post. You're a great blogger and an even better mother!

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  17. I found your post to be very thought provoking! We just became parents of 2 beautiful twin boys- now 13 weeks old and I am always trying to research was of raising them with intention to be the most wonderful human beings possible. Your post made so much sense to me! Thank you for your honesty. You rock.
    Ashley

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  18. I'm a 20 year old soccer playing, amateur boxing, physcial pain enduring, working class fella who regularly keeps a tab on your blogs.
    I read your blogs and laugh out loud about the incidents you mention down. I do this because I miss my childhood now.
    It also reminds me of the fun times my mum had when she raised me, my younger brother and elder sister.
    Heck I must've seen my mum and sister naked countless number of times whether by accident or cicumstance it doesn't matter and that doesn't mean I only saw them naked when I was a child. I saw them in the nude when I was past 16 years of age.They are beautiful and fit women as well and I actually mean it. It doesn't bother me in a sexual way at all. (I can't even count the number of times I have seen my brother shaking or dangling his joystick in front me). There is no sexual arousal from any of that.
    That doesn't mean I'm asexual either. I've had a decent number of lady friends as I grew up to 'get lucky' from time to time.

    I don't know how people can equate you to sexual predator or a pedophile when you blatantly pointed out the reasons why you do it?!
    Its not like you're intentionally taking them by their necks and giving them a real life demo of the birds and bees with them in it!
    I don't know how people can't appreciate your sense of humor and slices of life you presented to us.
    I can gurantee you that will never lose this 20 year old bugger as a fan, because he knows what his own mother has been through raising him and the awesome and protected childhood he had.
    Don't be bothered by Internet warriors. They write crap just to relieve themselves of their miserable failures they commit.

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  19. I'm sorry people are taking it the wrong way but look at it this way: it is the price of fame, lol!

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  20. I'm sorry you've had to deal with such jerks. I grew up in a family where my mom and dad didn't freak out if we saw them changing and I'm sure we barged into the bathroom often enough to make my mom think she'd never go alone. Growing up like that made my siblings and I more comfortable in our skin and honestly I think made us more comfortable and close as a family. Kudos to you for teaching your boys to respect a woman's body.

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  21. Congrats on pissing people off. Almost every speech or text that we look back on today in aw from Lincoln to MLK Jr was scrutinized and hated on at the time. But look at the difference it made in history. Hopefully with you and others fighting to desexualize women's bodies we will get there some day.

    Sincerely, Apreciative mom of 2 boys and aunt to 5

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  22. I know, as a mom of 4 now men and grammi to 4 little boys, I prefer to leave the door ajar if I am dressing or peeing. Anything can happen FAST, must always be ready to jump and run. I am proud of your honesty and your courage.

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  23. Keep being honest!! I love reading your blog and I really enjoyed this article. I grew up in a home where my mom didn't hide her body. If we needed to talk to her while she was showering or getting dressed, that was okay. She was this way because she grew up in a household where her mom was extremely modest. My mom grew up feeling like the human body was dirty and she didn't want that for her children. I have two sons, ages 9 and 5 and I try to be okay with them seeing my body. I don't parade around, but little boys have no concept of privacy or modesty, so they barge in quite frequently. I think that you have your priorities straight. Forget the internet meanies and keep being the wonderful mom and hilarious and thought-provoking blogger that you are!!

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  24. I would be willing to bet many of the people who commented negatively never even read your post, they just read the title,made assumptions based on worst case scenario thoughts and ran with them. Absolutely ridiculous that you should have to deal with their ignorance. Do not let them live rent free in your head, sometimes I wonder about those folks who tend to make everything sexual in nature. Please keep doing what you do,I enjoy reading your adventures and insights.

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  25. Don't worry about those nutjobs. It was a great post and that's why it got picked up in the first place!

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  26. I like to read and I don't ever comment, but I thought I should voice my support of you. I always read your stories and go "See Honey! Its not just me!" Just got into it with some other moms about some silly controversy as well. They read outside the context of your story. They assumed what they think you are doing, and not the lesson that was being taught. Trolls will be trolls. Someone always needs something to bitch about, and they found your story that day. Remember, there are others like me out there, reading, not commenting, nodding their head, going yep, I've done that. And another mom saying, THANK YOU for answering my question!
    You are doing this mom thing right. Keep up the good work. I'll see you in the trenches....

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  27. Wow. People are so crazy! I've been reading your blog for about 6months now (I'm only 22 and have no kids of my own but work as a nanny) and also read HuffPo daily and was so excited for you when I saw your article featured on their site. I'm so sorry that people have made it an unpleasant experience.
    Growing up my sisters and I regularly saw both my parents change, pee, shower, etc. it was never weird or uncomfortable until I got to be a preteen and only because of my own insecurities at that age.
    I don't think its even remotely unusual for young children to see their parents naked. I mean c'mon! Its family!

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  28. Obviously these people don't read you regularly ..... We who do love you and your kids!!! Ignore the meanies.....

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  29. Don't let the hide-behind-computer jerks bother you. You are a good writer AND a good mom as anyone that knows you and your family can attest to. Use their idiotic remarks as rungs on your ladder to literary success. Enjoy a good laugh and a good glass of wine (or margarita).

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  30. Your original post was awesome -- I shared it on my social media, where it received tremendous support and praise from quite a few people -- and this one is good, too. Haters gonna hate, and mean people suck. I'm so sorry you've had to endure it. As an author whose work has been successful outside of my own little sphere -- and more importantly, as a woman -- I can honestly say I feel your pain and struggle. I hope you can feel more intensely all the love and support your public has for you, because of the voice you give to how we so often feel. You're work is wonderful, and I hope you don't let the trolls get you down, as difficult as that can sometimes be.

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  31. It was a great article. Try to ignore the bullies. The changed title probably didn't help, but still, if they had read it they would have clearly seen the meaning behind it. Nothing pervert-like at all. That's the media for you - they try to stir up controversy.

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  32. Ignore the bullies. Their kids are probably the ones bullying others in school. One day way too soon, your kids will hit puberty and they'll quit walking in on you. Until then, keep being a great mom and ignore the haters! (And I'm only commenting as anonymous because I can't remember my google account password.) :)

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  33. I just want to say that I am in love with your blog! You are so open and honest, and I tell my husband all the time that I wish I had a mom friend like you, who could be more realistic about parenthood. It's an odd world we live in right now. We are constantly shown half-naked women in order to be sold movies or clothing, but it's considered weird if your average woman breast feeds in public. I think your post was fantastic. I was once told by a co-worker that it was "creepy" that my husband gives my two-year-old daughter baths. She said, "I stopped letting my husband bathe my girls when they were one so that it wouldn't be sexually awkward." There is nothing odd about a father giving a toddler a bath. Period. But she was an overly sensitive woman who, in my opinion, was seriously misguided and tried to make me feel bad about something that makes my daughter happy. Bottom line is that you are doing what you think makes sense for your boys, and that's what matters. I think that the crazies of the world just need someone to blame for their own weird hang ups.

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  34. Rita, I've never written to you before but I'm writing now primarily to support you. Good for you for your honesty! As a mother of one small boy I completely understand where you're coming from. And I applaud you for standing up to the cyber bullying. You go, awesome lady!!

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  35. It is a fantastic article and both myself and my children's father completely agreed with it (I shared it on my FB page even!) Keep it real and honest. You do an amazing job.

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  36. yes! i agree with you COMPLETELY!! this is how i (a girl) was raised and how i intend to raise my children! i am very body confident and i think it is in large due to the fact that my parents never expressed shame at their bodies or at mine! even now, as a young adult, if I'm home visiting (and my mom spoils me and buys me new clothes) i'll change in the living room or wherever i am because i am impatient! people are always so shocked that my dad may sometimes see me less than fully dressed...spoiler alert: he's my father!! there is nothing sexual about it. not all nudity is sexual, it's all about the context, and i think america would be a lot better off if we all realized this!

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  37. having been born and raised in Germany and spending many childhood summers in southern Europe the American attitude to nudity is something I still have not gotten used to even after over 20 years of living in the country. I still find it rather strange that the porn industry is one of the most profitable ones here but god forbid we might see a nipple in public. It's ridiculous.
    I grew up in a household, as did many of my friends, like the one you described in your original post: my parents never flaunted their nakedness but also never ever tried to cover up or hide from me when they were naked. We took many trips to Formentera where basically everyone runs around naked, including my parents and I. Nudity was never an issue, nor was it made into one. And I did not grow into a pervert but into a grown woman that has always appreciated her body.
    When I married my husband and became a step mom I continued to never be ashamed of being naked and brought up a step son who appreciates women and treats them with respect instead of sexual objects.

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  38. Lordy, I could barely read this, I felt so upset that people are so ignorant and vocal. I adore the first article, and you, and have also grappled, really grappled (!!) with how to raise a boy to respect women and how to raise a girl to respect women and herself. And I am with you! They see me naked, fleetingly, and I tell them I'm big and strong and warm and I will always snuggle them. And honey, I am from NEW ENGLAND, the land of Ethan Frome and Puritans and long cold winters! Haha, you write like you are able to blow off the haters, and I hope it's true. In the mean time, you've reassured me a great deal. Much love and powerful mothering, xx Angela

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  39. "Let it go…. let it go…" seriously though, I have 4 children ages 7,5,3,and 1 and I hold to the same principles. I've stopped showering with the 7 year old, but he has countless occasions to see all or most of my body anyway. Sitting on the toilet is like a magnet for him (me sitting on the toilet) Keep up the good work! and remember… "Let it goooo"

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  40. I think your original story was right on! I am a mother to 2 boys ages 3 and 6 and it is almost impossible not to be "caught" naked. I have never felt the need to run and hide or ever act ashamed and in turn they never feel like they have done something wrong. I love to read your blogs! Keep up the good work!

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  41. I'm guessing many of those negative comments were due to the title change by the secondary publisher, which planted a negative connotation in the reader's mind before the article was even opened. I read the article on your blog when you 1st posted it & didn't bat an eye. My mother didn't hide her nakedness from my brother or I (I'm female) either, & neither one of us thought anything of it. I think you're setting an excellent example.

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  42. It's kind of funny. I have been following your blog for a long time, and I read that post in the same voice, I read so many of your posts. A mom, her opinions, her story. I don't share the same feelings, but I appreciated your opinion. When I read this more recent piece, I was shocked that anyone would take it that way. Then, low and behold, a friend post the huffpost link to your article and had some ugly things to say. I linked her to this post to kind of give her some perspective, but it changed nothing. Of course, she has a history, a backstory that makes parental nudity a very scary thing for her, which I am sorry she had to deal with, but still her comments just didn't match the "far be it from to judge another mother" opener. I guess everyone reads every word we write with their own blinders on. Keep writing, keep doing what you do. I've enjoyed your blog for a long time, and I hope to enjoy it for years to come!

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  43. I'm so sorry you've been affected by the nasty tone of some people. I wonder if they are the same ones who fan their faces and hiss "cover up!!!" at nursing moms. This ridiculous subculture of false modesty and being scared of the human body is covering up some other underlying issues they have. But they're THEIR issues, not yours.

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  44. Okay, so I'm late posting here as I was late coming to your blog at all, but this post is important to me, so I'm just going to have to make my peace with being late. I LOVED your original post, I actually just got to it yesterday. I even told my husband about it and he loved it. I grew up in a very modest household, but my husband, well he's got a father everyone knows inevitably turns into naked dave lol. The thing is, those angry hateful comments are not just undermining you as a mother, but continue to perpetuate the undermining of boys in general. There comments speak not only the assumption that body's are only sexual objects, which is blatantly false, but also to the incorrect thought that all boys are inherently incapable of being anything but degrading and doing nothing but being perverted, practically from birth. Growing up you constantly hear comments like "boys will be boys"(which I HATE when people use that as an excuse). Also, when you speak to someone about how you need a break from mothering you get scoffs of "ya, good luck." This world is perpetually stuck in the mindset of boys are nothing but disgusting, perverted, selfless dicks and woman who are comfortable with who and what they are, are inappropriate, and it's those women's fault that these ideals are still alive today. It is bloody ridiculous and I'm so sick of it! Be proud of the lessons you are willing to teach your sons, where some parents would just sweep them under the rug! You are awesome, and as a daughter-in-law I think I can safely say the day will come when any woman would be lucky to have you as a mother-in-law and will thank you for the job you've done with your sons.
    End rant.

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