Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Have Yourself a Merry Little... Free Short Read



So, Tommy and Bobby decided they needed a little Christmas story. Well, Bobby decided. Tommy, frankly, couldn’t give a shit. Bobby loves him anyway.

Huge thanks to Nico Jaye for looking it over in a flash! Not only is she a crazy talented writer, she’s a hell of a friend. :)

I’m going to settle in and watch The Grinch with my (not so young) younglings now.

I hope everyone reading this has a wonderful holiday season with many joys in the coming year!


Everything He Needs
Word Count: 4K+
Characters: Tommy and Bobby from The Last Thing He Needs
Content Warnings: Overly sentimental and heavy on the sap because that’s just how I roll this time of year.

“Tom.” Bobby wasn’t annoyed, exactly, but Tommy could tell he was getting tired of the debate. Tommy was too, for that matter, but no matter what he said, Bobby wouldn’t back down. “It’s been almost a year, and you still act like everything good in your life is temporary. I’m trying like hell to be patient, but you’ve gotta give me a break here.”

Tommy let out an exasperated huff. The store was crowded, his coat was hot, and the scarf around his neck seemed to be getting tighter. “Fine,” he muttered. He tossed the phone cases for Colleen and Mike into his cart and watched them slide down to the bottom through a pile of toys and other shit no one needed.

Bobby snorted a laugh. “You act like I’m asking you to give up a kidney.” As they moved on from the electronics department, Bobby laughed again. “Actually, I think it’d be easier to talk you into donating an organ to one of the kids.”

He shot Bobby a narrow glance. “Yeah, well, their lives don’t depend on getting new phone cases or doll houses and whatever the hell else you’ve snuck into your cart.” Not that the doll house for Zoe was a secret from Tommy, but he wagered Bobby would’ve done it on the sly if he thought he could get away with it.

“The doll house is from Santa, it doesn’t count.”

Tommy rolled his eyes. “And the matching trikes I keep tripping over in the bedroom?”

“Those too.” Bobby had become very interested in a display of glass ornaments, but it seemed more likely he was avoiding Tommy. After a beat, Bobby said, “They’re too hard to wrap, it makes more sense for them to be left out on Christmas Eve.”

At least the bastard had the decency to sound a little guilty about it.

“Right.” There was no point in arguing. It was their first Christmas as a family. Judy had used the excuse early on and it had stuck. This one had to be special. This one had to be one the kids would always remember. By next year, Colleen might be in her own apartment and Mike wasn’t far behind her.

Their lives had turned around on a dime and maybe Bobby was right. Maybe it was time for Tommy to start accepting it.

He didn’t laugh when Bobby tucked an art set for Carrie into his cart, but he didn’t resist either. He did put his foot down when Bobby tried to make him pick out an ‘our first Christmas’ ornament. Bobby had been leaning toward one in the shape of a little house with snow on the roof, edged in tiny little Christmas lights. It had the year written in gold over the door.

“We could probably find one online with two guys under the mistletoe or something….” Bobby was seriously debating this. “But I think this one is better, ya know? What with the kids and all….” When Tommy arched a brow, Bobby said, “What? Too sentimental for you?” His voice carried a tease, but there was a hint of embarrassment tangled up in it too.

“I was thinking cheesy, but we can go with sentimental.”

Bobby put the ornament back on the fake tree and laughed. “Fine, asshole. No cheese for Christmas. This year.”

“I just don’t know why you wanna waste money on something like that.”

Pushing his cart ahead a few more feet, Bobby turned to look at Tommy. “It’s not a waste. It’s a… a reminder, years later.”

Tommy nearly changed his mind, but when he looked at the two shopping carts, both overflowing, he decided they’d done enough damage for a lifetime, let alone one holiday. And that stupid little ornament was over twenty bucks, for fuck sake.

“If I can’t remember you in a few years without an overpriced light up ornament, we’ve got bigger problems.”

With another laugh, Bobby said, “You’re such a romantic.”

“Never been accused of that one.”

“Believe me, I know.” The tease was clear in Bobby’s voice. Not a trace of irritation, or even disappointment. “What about when we’re old and senile?”

“Then every Christmas will be our first Christmas together.”


****

He managed to drag Bobby out of the store without adding anything else to their carts. That felt like a Christmas miracle in itself. They’d gotten three things for each of the kids to open. Plus Santa. It didn’t sound like much, but when you multiplied it by seven and compared it to every other Christmas they’d ever known, it added up fast. There had only been two Scrooge jokes from Bobby and one comment from Tommy about spoiling them. As compromises go, they did okay.

When they got home, they stashed everything in their little garage apartment. Bobby tossed a sheet over the pile. “Just in case the kids come in here before we get everything wrapped.” By the look on his face, all those presents could’ve been for him. Tommy didn’t think he’d ever seen Bobby so happy.

“You look like a little kid yourself, copper.”

Bobby slid his arms around Tommy’s waist and pulled him close. “It’s Christmas, we’re all supposed act like little kids.”

He couldn’t help a small laugh as he leaned in, grinning against Bobby’s soft kiss. “If you say so.”

Unfortunately, a few kisses were all they had time for. Bobby had less than a half hour to eat and get ready for his shift.

After they said their goodbyes, Tommy went next door to Judy’s. The kids were all scattered, picking at homework and chores, but Max toddled over to him with his arms up as soon as he saw Tommy.

“Oh, good, you’re home.” Judy looked relieved when he walked into the kitchen. “I needed to talk to you.”

Tommy never liked the sound of that, but he kissed Max’s cheek and set him down. Judy passed him a cookie before he could run off to the other room.

Without commenting on the cookie for Max, Tommy asked, “What’s up, Madam M?”

Judy wiped her hands on a bright red dishtowel, smiled, and nodded toward the living room. “Did you get your Christmas shopping done?”

“All but Bobby.” He had no idea what to get Bobby. The guy had everything he needed, and damn near everything he wanted. When Tommy had asked him what he’d like for Christmas, Bobby’s unhelpful response was you. Safe to say, that one had already been delivered.

He followed Judy past the eight foot Christmas tree, around the coffee table, and collapsed onto the couch.

“Well,” Judy said, picking up a small stack of notebook paper. “I guess I’m a little late, then, but I wanted to share something with you.”

She knew how to catch his attention. Tommy sat up and leaned forward.

“The other day, I asked the children to give me their Christmas lists.” Judy thumbed through the papers and then looked at Tommy. “I got the impression they’d never done that before.”

Tommy shrugged. Christ knew there’d never been a point to writing out a list of wishes in their family. Last year was the closest they’d ever come when Carrie and Collin told Santa what they wanted. Two things each, Tommy remembered. Collin had wanted a new pair of shoes and a puppy and Carrie had asked for pretty hairclips and a book.  

Judy nodded, as if Tommy’s shrug had been confirmation. “When I asked this year, I had expected… I don’t know, maybe a laptop or an iPod, something… big, something they can’t get every day.”

There was something unsettling about the look on Judy’s face. “What’d they ask for?”

Reading from the paper in her hand, Judy said, “Colleen says: I don’t really know what I want. I love the phone you got me for my birthday and that feels like more than enough. What I’d really like is to get something special for Tommy. He’s a pain—she’s scratched something out here, but I’m fairly certain it was in the ass—to shop for, but I’d like to think of something for him. If you have any ideas, please let me know.”

Tommy didn’t trust himself to speak, even if he knew what to say, but he could feel his eyes pricking.

Judy looked pointedly at him and set Colleen’s paper on the table. “We’ll put a pin in that one for the moment.” She looked at the next one on the stack. “Mike says: I can’t really think of anything I want, not as far as presents go. But, I think it would be really cool if we could have a fancy Christmas dinner. The kind with really nice plates and matching glasses and pretty napkins and stuff. I saw this lamb roast on a cooking show last week and it looked really good. I’ve never tasted lamb. I’d help cook and clean up and everything, but that’s what I’d like most. If we can’t do that, it’s okay, but I’ve always thought that would be nice.” By the time she finished, Judy’s eyes were shining and she had to pause for a breath. “He added at the bottom: Can you think of anything to get Tommy? I have a few ideas, but I’m not sure. I want it to be something special this year.”

Judy and Tommy sniffled at the same time and a hint of a smile flickered across Judy’s face before she read the next paper. “Davey says: If it’s not too much, I’d like a new pair of earbuds. Only one ear works on mine now, and it kind of crackles. Can we get something for Tommy too? I don’t know what, but something.”

She set his paper aside and looked at Tommy. “Are you recognizing a theme?” Thankfully she didn’t wait for an answer before looking at the next wishlist. “Carrie says: I’d like some new hairclips and maybe a pretty dress—She put a question mark there, not a period. Just so you know. She went on to add: Nothing fancy or anything. If it’s not too much, maybe some paints, too. And, I know what I’m doing for Tommy and Bobby, but what would you like, Judy?”

For fuck sake. Was she trying to kill him? When Judy smirked, Tommy wiped his eyes and asked, “What?”

“Nothing. I just thought I saw your heart grow three sizes.”

“I’m not a Grinch.” He wasn’t. Really. “I just don’t want ‘em spoiled is all. There’s nothing wrong with limits.”

He expected an argument, but instead Judy said, “I agree. Limits are vital. But these kids could be millionaires and not be spoiled. Coming from where they started out, they will never ask for much. And that’s almost worse than being spoiled sometimes.”

Goddamn it all. “So I’m supposed to…what? Force them to dream big?”

Judy titled her head to the side, looking like she was thinking. “Yes, actually. But, mostly, they follow your example in everything, Tommy. What’s the last thing you asked for?” When Tommy opened his mouth, Judy raised her hand to stop him. “For yourself.”

Tommy couldn’t remember. Come to think of it, the only thing he’d ever asked for was forgiveness from Bobby on more than one occasion.

And really, when it came right down to it, he had more for himself now than he’d ever hoped for. Safe home, healthy kids, a little money in the bank, fulltime work. And Bobby. Most of all, Bobby. “I don’t need anything else.” It took him a long time to say that.

“Wanting things is good, Tommy. Healthy, even.” When he started to say something else—not even he knew what that would be—Judy said, “There’s one more.” She looked at the last letter. “Collin says: I’d really like a puppy or a kitten. A dog might tear up the yard, though, so maybe just a kitten. I’d clean up after it and take care of it. I could even use my allowance for food and stuff so it wouldn’t cost extra. But, the twins might get in the litter box. Maybe a cat or a dog is a bad idea. I’d really like one, but maybe it’s too much trouble. There’s a toy drive at school. Maybe I could just get something really cool to donate? It’s sad to think about all the kids out there who don’t have anything, even less than we used to. It would be awesome if we could make someone’s Christmas, know what I mean? PS, what should we get Tommy?”

He suddenly wished Judy really was trying to kill him. Who knew hearing Christmas lists could be the hardest part of a person’s day? Davey was smart enough—and shifty enough, frankly—to fake a slim Christmas list to pull a few sympathy strings, but he didn’t think that was the case. Tommy was learning that selflessness was a hard habit to break, especially when it had been instilled in you at birth.

Tommy stood up suddenly, feeling restless and maybe even a little annoyed. He paced the floor once or twice and then paused in front of the tree. Lights sparkled against red garland and dozens of ornaments hung from the branches. A pair of silver turtledoves caught his eye. They were wrapped in a banner with 1976 etched into the plating. “What’s this?”

Judy stood next to him and reached for the ornament. She touched it carefully, as if it might break, even though that didn’t seem possible. “Warren gave that to me on our first Christmas after we were married.” She sounded happy and sad at the same time.

On another branch close by, Tommy noticed a silver rattle with a green ribbon tied through the handle. The year of Bobby’s birth was etched into it. “Bobby’s first Christmas?”

Judy grinned and nodded. “And he made this one for me when he was five.” She reached higher and pointed out a little glitter snowflake. Most of the glitter had fallen off, but it still sparkled. “Christmas trees aren’t just for decoration. They’re where we hang our hopes and dreams, our blessings, and our memories.”

How she could say all that and not cry was beyond Tommy. Even he was choking up. Between Judy and the kids, he wasn’t going to make it to the new year without some kind of emotional breakdown.

Tommy glanced at Judy when she spoke again. “Every year, I take these out and I remember what was happening in our lives. What Bobby looked like when he hung this on the tree for the first time. What my husband said to me our first year, when we were too poor for a real tree and he’d made one out of fallen branches, how he made me laugh. Christmas is family and love and hope for an even better tomorrow.”

In Tommy’s world, Christmas was an extra expense, a letdown, and a hassle.

But between the two of them, Tommy knew the kids deserved Judy’s version.

“I gotta get outta here.”

Judy watched, a surprised look on her face as Tommy made his quick retreat.

“Please think about it, Tommy.”

He only nodded in response, not sure she even saw him as he closed the door behind him.

The bells on the doorknob jingled cheerfully.

****

When he and Bobby had gone shopping early that morning, they’d decided on a one-stop trip at the local all-in-one store. Tommy had insisted.

Now, though, gripping the steering wheel like he was trying to throttle it, Tommy pulled into the mall parking lot.

He muttered to himself as he got out of the car, “I should tell ‘em all I want a carton of Marlboros for Christmas.” He’d found a spot, but it was on the back lot, a hundred miles from the entrance. “I’d spend the day on the front porch, smoke the whole damn thing.” It’d been months since he caved and had one, but damn it all, when he tried to think of what he really wanted, that was all that came to mind. He decided to drop the train of thought before he broke down and bought himself a pack.

He didn’t feel like he had money to burn, not really, but when Tommy looked at the totals in his (first ever) checking account, he felt like he’d won the lottery. Gene had made him a fulltime bartender—complete with a nice raise and sometimes really nice tips—and Tommy had been saving his pennies ever since he’d moved in with Bobby. It was easy to do since the guy wouldn’t take anything for rent. “I don’t even pay rent, why the hell should you?” Bobby had said, and he had a point there, but it still felt wrong sometimes, felt like charity.

Tommy paused as he pulled open the heavy glass door to the main entrance and wondered if there would be anything left of his savings when the day was done. Thinking back on the lists the kids had given Judy, he decided it didn’t matter. Judy wasn’t about to kick them out in the streets, and even if her house burned to the ground too, Tommy wagered that—unlike them—she was heavily insured.

For the first time in his life, Tommy O’Shea chose not to worry what fresh hell was lurking around the corner. He decided to teach the kids to dream big.

Or, at least to dream medium.  

****

Several hours later, Tommy sat in the middle of the floor surrounded by paper and ribbon and bows. He’d managed to wrap about half of the presents when Bobby came home.

“You’ve been busy.” Bobby kicked off his shoes, pausing to lean down for a kiss before he made his way to their bedroom.

“Had the night off, remember?”

Bobby grunted in acknowledgment, but didn’t say anything else. He was used to finding Tommy in the middle of something when he came home at the end of a shift. On his days off, Tommy cleaned gutters and scraped moss off the roof, mowed the lawn, and anything else he could think to do. Living most of his life under a cloud of frantic worry with one fucking crisis after another dogging him day in and day out had turned Tommy into a restless ball of energy when he wasn’t busy.

Less than twenty minutes later, Bobby joined him on the floor, fresh from the shower in a clean pair of sweats.

“How’d it go today?” Tommy wasn’t sure if he really wanted to know the truth, but he asked every day anyway.

Bobby seemed to know how Tommy felt and his answer was almost always the same. “Nothing too major, usual bullshit.” He laughed then and added, “I got a Christmas card from a woman whose son I hauled in last month for trying to shoplift a bottle of booze. She said he’s been doing well ever since and thanked me for putting the fear of God into him.”

“That’s a lot better than the one who tried to slug ya for it the other day.”

“Agreed.” Bobby reached for the nearest box and lifted the lid. “Did you buy more stuff?” He pulled back the tissue paper and found a fancy velvet dress inside. The box was huge because of the fluffy skirt. Tommy figured Carrie could wear it for their Christmas dinner. He didn’t know what a lamb roast would cost, or what the hell it was even called, but he was going to find out tomorrow.

Tommy shrugged. “I had coupons for that store on the mall so I got Carrie a few things.”

Glancing around, Bobby asked, “Why are there two Xboxes?”

“Santa thought the older kids should get something too.”

Bobby was obviously confused. “Why two, though?”

“They were on special, ya know? And they came with free games. Collin wanted to donate something nice to the toy drive at school and tomorrow is the last day before winter break.”

“What the hell happened to you today?”

Tommy laughed and passed Bobby a roll of wrapping paper. “My Grinch heart grew three sizes, apparently.”

Bobby didn’t quite cackle, but it was close enough. “You mean you spent the afternoon with my mother.”

“Afternoon, hell. She had me in less than a half hour.”

****

The next day, Bobby was off and Tommy didn’t have to go in until eight. They spent the morning in bed and then moved all the presents—all but Santa’s contribution—into Judy’s living room. When the kids came home from school, half the living room was piled high with presents. Davey dove straight for the tree and started sorting through the packages, shaking the ones with his name on them. 

Colleen looked like she was going to cry. “This is too much, Tommy.”

“Yeah, well.” Tommy pulled her close and kissed the top of her head. He almost told her not to expect it every year, or to just enjoy it while it lasts, but instead he said, “It’s all socks and underwear, don’t get too excited.”

“That’s a lot of socks and underwear.” Colleen laughed and hugged him tight.

Judy watched the kids sort through the presents and laughed when Zoe kept saying, “Open ‘dis one!” Mostly she looked at Tommy with a bright smile on her face and something close to smug triumph in her eyes.

Bobby picked Zoe up and kissed her cheek. “You can’t open any of them for almost a week, Zoe.” She giggled and squirmed out of his arms.

Tommy hadn’t considered what a pain in the ass it would be keeping the twins—not to mention Davey and Collin—off the presents until Christmas morning. “Maybe we should put up a fence or something.”

“Maybe we should let them enjoy it.” Bobby whispered against Tommy’s ear.

“Maybe so, copper.” He relaxed against Bobby and reminded himself that he wasn’t spoiling them, he was making up for a lot of lost years. “Oh, before I forget,” Tommy said, loudly so everyone could hear. He pulled out a piece of paper from his back pocket and handed it to Davey. “Here’s my list. One of everything should do.”

Davey looked at it and laughed. “A trip to Mexico, I’ll get right on that, Tommy.”

Tommy had put everything he could think of on that stupid list. Cologne that some sales girl had sprayed on him, because Bobby smelled him all afternoon after that. A new wallet. More pictures of the kids. Handprints from Max and Zoe. Small stuff the kids could do for free and big stuff he knew he wouldn’t get, but, what the hell. He was trying to lead by example. “Well, someone told me I should dream big. I bet I could dream up something big on a beach.”

Colleen snatched the list out of Davey’s hand and Mike leaned over her shoulder to read it with her. Only the babies were still interested in the pile of presents under the tree. Jesus.

Bobby took a deep breath against Tommy’s neck and whispered, “I’m going to need to see your ID. You’re doing a piss poor impersonation of my Tom.”

Tommy laughed and turned in Bobby’s arms. “Oh, I’m still yours. It’s not my fault your mother is right every damn time I turn around.”

“You should say that louder so she can hear,” Bobby laughed softly and kissed Tommy again before going on. “Then we wouldn’t have to buy her something for Christmas.”

Tommy couldn’t help but grin. “I already got her somethin’.”

“You gonna tell me what it is?”

“Nah, you can wait until Christmas, but you can have one of yours now.” He pulled Bobby away from the kids, into the kitchen. On the counter was a little box, wrapped in red foil with a glittery green bow on top. Presentation was becoming a priority to Tommy. Who knew?

Bobby shook it and then ripped the paper off in one quick motion. So much for presentation.

He didn’t say anything at first, just stared. Finally, one word came out of Bobby’s mouth. “Bullshit.” He looked like he didn’t believe it, but he was grinning, his eyes bright with obvious emotion.

Tommy had never been hugged so hard in his life. “I take it that’s the right one?”

“Yeah it is.” Bobby whispered. He held the ornament in his hand against Tommy’s back and Tommy wondered if Bobby was still looking at it over his shoulder. “This means a lot to me, Tom.” The tough cop was sniffling, for Christ sake.

“I can tell.” Maybe Tommy sniffled a little himself.

He really did have everything he needed, right there in his arms. Maybe Bobby did too.

Tommy decided he’d tell Bobby about Collin’s puppy later.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Giving Thanks

It's a little late for an actual Thanksgiving post, but since I asked everyone what they were thankful for this year, I thought I'd go ahead and post what I'm thankful for too. I guess what I'm most thankful for is that my list is so long. For the sake of this post, I'll try to trim a little.

Always, I'm grateful for my kids. They're hilarious, kind, and generous. They amaze me every day.Their friends are pretty great and I'm thankful for them too.

I'm thankful for my family and my friends who warm my heart and keep me going when things seem rough.

I'm grateful for the wonderful people I've met this year--other writers who inspire me and are incredibly kind, readers who make my day when they drop me a message or leave a comment somewhere, everyone I've ever had an exchange with at DSP, and the folks I've made friends with along the way this year. I've been truly blessed.

And, yes, I'm grateful for BOOKS. I have so many, but I keep buying more. It really does feel like an addiction, but it's a healthy one, so I'm okay with that.

This one may seem silly, but when I was driving home last night, I realized how thankful I am for all the people in the neighborhoods putting up holiday lights. It really cheers me to drive by and see them twinkling so merrily. It feels like a little gift from a total stranger and it's one of my favorite parts of the holiday season.

So, okay, I kept it short for the blog, but I hope everyone out there has things to be thankful for--big and small.

One last note! Thank you to everyone who left a comment on the giveaway post! It was a joy reading your responses. Congrats to Vicki, Kezia, and Sula who won an audio download of A Simple Romance. When my lovely assistant (see: my lovely sister) was pulling the names from an actual hat, two stuck together, so I decided the universe was telling me I needed to give three away. Winners have been notified via email. :)

Happy Holidays, everyone! Or, ya know, Happy Festivus if you prefer!



Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ben and Gavin



So I’m getting this posted months after my original deadline, but, uh, just under the most recent one, so that counts for something, right?

Originally it was supposed to be a smutty little flashfic, but, good lord they ran away from me.

Anyway! I just wanted to say thanks to all the amazing readers who’ve enjoyed The Last Thing He Needs. I’ve met so many awesome people in the last few months, and I’m incredibly grateful for each one.

One quick reminder! If you haven’t checked out the giveaway post for A Simple Romance audio edition, there’s still time! I’ve gotten a couple of comments and PMs, so, ya know, the more the merrier. :)

Things to keep in mind when reading this:
It’s not edited. You’ll understand why I love editors because, dude. I need them. Also, this isn’t a proper short story, it’s really just a backstory for Ben and Gavin. 18+ only, please! There’s only one smutty scene, but it’s definitely adult reading, IMO.

Title: The Best Parts
Characters: Ben and Gavin (Ben was briefly introduced in The Last Thing He Needs)
Word Count: 11K+

[Edit: I was in such a rush yesterday, I didn't realize my lovely cover didn't show up in the post! *shakes fist* Let's try that again. Cover by my awesome friend Nico Jaye]



 

Friday, November 21, 2014

How about a giveaway?

Okay, I'm super excited about A Simple Romance being released on audio! I realized the other day that I've never actually done a giveaway on my blog, so, maybe it's time to fix that?

Since Thanksgiving is less than a week away here in the U.S., all you have to do is leave a comment telling me what you're thankful for this year and I'll put your name in the hat for the audio edition of A Simple Romance. I'll pick two winners on December 5th. :D

And, be on the lookout next weekend for a little something from Ben and Gavin!


Edit: In case you don't want to leave your email on the public blog, you can also PM me on Facebook or Goodreads!  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sex Positivity Blog Hop



When Grace R. Duncan came up with this idea, the response was probably overwhelming. What a great idea. Dedicating an an entire blog hop to sex-positive ideas? Sign me up!



I’ll be honest here: I like sex. No, I love sex. I love reading sex, watching sex, having sex, and I love talking about it. Sex is right up there in my top five favorite things in life. Next to coffee, rainy days, books, and family. You’d think that would make picking a topic easy, but not for me. Too many choices! It’s all good! Porn? Love it! Erotica? Yes, please! Masturbation? That’s the closest I get to playing sports.

In the end, I finally landed on a topic that’s near and dear to my heart: being a sex positive parent. It’s a hard one (sorry) to tackle, because like most parents, the idea of my kids actually having sex one day genuinely squicks me out. I’ve had conversations with my kids that have made me want to bleach my brain. But they’d never know that.

I think the first pivotal moment of how I would handle their sexuality came when (I’ve promised my kids I wouldn’t use their real names on my public blogs and such, so we’re going to go with the Borg naming system here) my oldest daughter, One of Four, was maybe three years old. I walked down the hall to check on the kiddos and found her in her room, on her bed, stark naked and drawing all over herself. Now, drawing on herself was nothing new. She did that all the time. This time, however, there was a rainbow line of ink from one leg, all the way up and then down the other leg. With lots of extra doodles around her bits. Hrm.

I wanted to tell her no, don’t do that, get in the bath. I cringed and clenched my jaw, felt the embarrassment and general ickieness of seeing her doing that… and then, in the flash of a second, a memory sprang to mind. I’m a little girl, around 5 years old. I’ve just gotten out of the bath and I’m sitting on the floor checking out my body. It’s not a sexual thing, it’s curiosity. There are places I can’t see unless I bend a certain way and, hey, what the heck is going on down there? I do a gymnastic-gold-worthy spread and shift around until I can get a good, upside down look. This is the exact moment my mother walks in and—horrified—yells, “Stop that! That’s nasty!” Seriously? There are parts of my own body that are nasty? I had no idea. Enter the shame. Shame that clings for years.

My daughter noticed me standing there and looked up. Her eyes were wide, like she knew she’d been caught doing something she shouldn’t do. My God, had I already instilled a sense of shame in her about her body? I hoped not. I told her, “Even though those pens are non-toxic and kid-safe, the ink might not be okay for your skin down there. Please take a quick bath to wash it off. And, remember, you need privacy when you touch yourself or look at yourself down there, so please close the door next time.”

A look of relief flitted across her face, then she shrugged and said, “Okay, Mommy.” and got in the bath. That was it.

This is the same kid, who, not even a year later, asked me how babies are made. I told her in the kid-friendliest terms I could think of because I had always said if they were old enough to ask a question, they were old enough to get an honest answer. I told her about boys having sperm and girls having eggs. I told her the sperm fertilizes the eggs and the woman gets pregnant. God, she is a smart little thing and she saw the huge, gaping hole in my story. “How does the sperm get to the egg?” Oh, God. I told her in the vaguest terms possible. “But… how does the sperm get out of the boy?” COME ON. When we closed that conversation, I ended with, “Just remember, that’s something for grownup people, not little kids.”

Her question: “Not even for practice?” >__<

Anyway. My oldest daughter was the one who, early on, instilled the… necessity for sex-positivity in me. I didn’t want her thinking it was dirty or bad or wrong. I wanted her to know that there are some things that are appropriate for kids (exploring your body safely, being curious, asking questions) and the rest is okay when you’re older. Much older, please.

Over the years, sex-positivity has been my fallback, my go-to when dealing with these kids. I was grateful for that attitude when I found my (at the time) 13 year old son sexting (in a tween sort of way) with a girl who wasn’t his girlfriend. And when my 16 year old daughter (yes, the same one who asked me about practicing making babies) asked me questions about masturbation and told me some stuff that made me wish for the MIB memory eraser thing. I was even more grateful for it when my youngest—only 11 at the time—told me she’s a lesbian. My answer? “I’m so glad you told me.” I hugged her tight, kissed the top of her head, and that was it. Her sexuality was a non-issue. She could’ve told me she’s a boy and wants to look into surgery options for when she’s older, or pretty much anything else and my response would’ve been the same. My kids know that about me.

When puberty started to rear its ugly head around our house, I had a talk with the kiddos. They’re all pretty close in age, so I gathered them around me and told them that it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. They could ask me anything, tell me anything, and I would listen, answer questions, and help them find information if I didn’t already know. I told them that they couldn’t shock me. That was a lie, but I wanted it to be true. I told them that if I hadn’t done it, seen it, or heard of it, I probably knew someone who has or who could put me in touch with someone who has. Then I showed them all how to put a condom on a cucumber.

The amazing thing about having that kind of attitude is… they talk to me. They tell me things. They listen to me. And, honestly, they teach me things. My oldest daughter schooled me about asexuality. I had a hell of a time wrapping my head around it—I love sex, remember? But she told me that she had expected better of me when I said, “That’s not even a real thing.” Shame on me! And good for her for calling me out on it and then educating me. That moment in time showed my daughter that I still have things to learn and it showed me that I still have attitudes that need to be adjusted sometimes, which I hadn’t realized until then. The whole conversation is precious to me because I got to see firsthand the kind of person my daughter is. She is bright, she is open-minded, and she is not afraid to tell people what’s what.

I got the same experience just a few nights ago when my mother was watching something on TV and someone said something about “all the genders” and my mother reacted the way most baby-boomers probably do. “There are two! What does he mean, all the genders?”

My youngest daughter—now 12—said, “Um, excuse you? There are two sexes, there are many genders.” I don’t think my kids would have the courage or even the knowledge to stand up and teach us these things if they hadn’t been given the tools and the freedom from an early age.

Two of my kids are now older than I was when I started having sex. That’s enough to add a few gray hairs to my head, but it’s reality. Kids have sex.

For a parent, it sucks. Sex is one more thing to worry about. When they were little, I worried about them falling and cracking their head open, eating dish soap, getting sick. I worried about predators and bullies (That fear never goes away, btw. They’ll be in their 40s and I’ll still make myself ill worrying about other people doing them harm.) and I worry about whether or not I’ve completely fucked them up. But worrying about them having sex? That’s a tough one. I don’t want to think about it. But… I want them to have full and happy lives. I want them to find partners who will treat them with respect, love them, support them. I want them to—above all—be safe.

And safety, when it comes to sex, means condoms. It means honesty. It means knowing yourself and letting your partner(s) know you. How do you teach a kid that? My best guess, my only answer, is to raise them to be comfortable in their own skin. To not take shit from anyone. To be honest with themselves and others. To communicate. To laugh. To have fun. And to always remember the golden rule: Don’t be an asshole.

That’s what I hope they take away from all those awkward conversations and all those squicky moments of terror. I hope they remember that they have the right to express themselves in whatever way they see fit. I hope they remember to let others do the same. I hope they remember that it’s okay to have their own boundaries and that it’s okay to firmly say no. But, that it’s okay to say yes, too. If that’s what they want. If it’s within the legal limits. If it’s within their comfort zone. I hope they remember that their rights—sexual and otherwise—begin and end with themselves. I think they get that. I think they understand, feel it deep in their bones. I think they own who they are and what they want. And I hope they surround themselves with people who do the same.

Bottom line: I believe having a sex-positive attitude when raising your kids spills over into every aspect of their lives. Why? I think being sex-positive means—in part, at least—allowing yourself to be who you are and allowing others to be who they are.

Meet the younglings:

One of Four; 16 years old: My oldest daughter is questioning her sexuality. She’s learning who she is and what she wants. She’s changing her mind every day. I’m letting her do what she needs to do. She’ll figure it out one of these days, and there’s no rush. She is an artist and a writer and she is a force of good in this world.

Two of Four; 15 years old: My oldest son is a gamer. He’s also a feminist. He is often the only person speaking up against a very loud crowd of online—and sometimes IRL—assholes who are spewing hate toward women or the LGBT community. I’ve seen him in action and it is brilliant, beautiful. He’s already a better man than a lot of adult guys.

Three of Four; 13 years old: My youngest son is autistic. Sexuality hasn’t come into his world yet. The most I’ve had to deal with is “It’s okay to touch yourself, but you need to go to your room.” I’ll deal with the rest as it comes up, just like I’ve done with the others. His journey will be unique and I’ll probably have to learn even more than I have already. And that’s okay. I wouldn’t trade him for the world. He is our gift, our golden boy. My other kids are already fighting over who “gets him” when I die. We have a strange family.

Four of Four; 12 years old: My youngest daughter is a proud, happy lesbian who has (thankfully) been loved and respected by everyone she’s come out to so far. From her best friend’s Muslim family, to her Christian teacher, to her own diverse family, she has been welcomed just as she is. Like her sister, she is an artist, she is a firebrand, and she is the first person who will say “You are beautiful” to literally anyone because she thinks we all need to hear it more often.

So, in closing, be yourself, allow others to be themselves, and—because Four of Four is right—remember that you are beautiful.

I hope you all have a great weekend and be sure to check out the other stops on the blog hop!


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