Thursday, September 4, 2008

Family Values

Basic Medicine Wheel

My Family, My Values

There's been a lot of hooey out there about how Sarah Palin represents "Family Values" lately. First off, I'll begin by saying "Sarah Palin is not allowed to make decisions for my family."

I will reciprocate that by not making any decisions for her family. It's only fair.

There wasn't a lot of Beaver Cleaver action around my house. I had one child by my first disasterous marriage and three children by my disasterous fourth marriage. (the running theme in my marriages has been disaster) Most of the disasters were my fault. Usually all my fault. I made 3rdX's attorney crack a smile at a deposition by offering up my take on a Marriage Zen Koan:

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it; will it still be my fault?

My own mother calls me her "Weed in the garden of matrimony."

Thing is, I don't argue with the truth anymore. My own personal journey through the Twelve Steps has shown me who and what I am. I have a clear picture of the casual depravities I am capable of.

Here's where my values differed greatly from Sarah Palin's, and with the values of most of the Republican Party. Sex, specifically, sex regarding teenagers.

I found myself, at six months sober, being given the custody of my three young children while the fourth disaster played out. That's when I started to get to know those kids. Up to this point, as far as they were concerned, I was this dude who showed up every four to six months to yell at their Mom for a couple of weeks and then leave again. Really, that's the life of a touring musician.

I had kids who were angry, terrified, suspicious, and not very happy to be where they were sent. We changed that slowly. Most of the changes were on my part. The process of staying sober in AA was the biggest help to that. I had a great sponsor in AA early on. If I was complaining about some behaviors in my kids he would say "Where do you think they learned to act like that?" The answer was always, "In my house, from watching me."

As they grew we still had an arrangement that was, on its surface, pretty non-traditional. I had quit taking road tours. I stayed home. At first I took studio or local live gigs, then I worked out how to do my studio gigs at the house. Some of it was really cool. My favorite part of the day was gathering up a pack of dogs and heading out to the bus stop to meet the kids when they got home. Then, I loved watching the looks on their faces when they entered the house and smelled bread baking, or cookies, or pies, or. . . Still, things were different in our house. A lot of what we did as a family and the decisions we made were based on consensus. I asked them all the time "What do you want to do?" Some of that was because I had no illusions about my own morality or good judgement. Folks with that shit don't spend all the years I spent shooting dope and staying away from their responsiblities.

When the spectre of puberty began to show itself, I had no moral high ground I could occupy. My oldest daughter, StripperGirl, once told me flat out how hard it was for her to rebel as a teenager because she knew that I was out there on the road raising my own hell. She said stuff like "How am I supposed to express rage and rebellion when you're on the road chainsawing hotel rooms?" (look, I only did that three or four times, really, it is a hard rep to live down once it's been established though)

Luckily I had folks I could call upon for advice. 3rdX was a Psychologist who specialized in human sexuality. I went to her first. She was a big help. Even after making it clear to me that she was there to help the kids and not me. She steered me to websites, books, and other people who helped me find the best available information on sexuality and all that icky stuff most parents would rather avoid.

I was lavish with the information. I figured that there was no way I could expect the kids to make good decisions if I limited their access to facts, opinions, and outlooks. I wanted them to know stuff. I wanted them to think about stuff. I wanted them to be able to make informed decisions.

Then, there was the medical end of things. I got our pediatrician to line us up with an OB/Gyn for the two girls who specialized in young women. I gave that doctor a notarized letter from me authorizing her to treat any condition my girls presented without my being informed, if that was the wish of the girls. I didn't want them being embarrassed to have me know something standing in the way of them getting treatment. Ever.

I also was, to use StripperGirl's term, "The Condom Fairy." All the kids knew where the condoms were. They were there for the taking. Not wanting to leave much to chance, I was also notorious for stashing a few of them into purses, glove compartments, jacket pockets, or any other place where I thought they might be easily found if they were needed. I didn't want my kids falling for that whole "you're planning for it" bullshit.

Most of all, we talked. There were no topics that were considered off limits. If the subject was something I didn't know about, we found materials or people that did know.

What was the end result of this?

StripperGirl is now married, with two children and teaches grade school in Anchorage, Alaska.

MedskoolGirl is single, and OK with that on account of she's about to graduate with her MD.

HarperGirl is studying Celtic Harp in Ireland, she's married and expecting her first child next month.

The Son is single, and well on his way to establishing himself as an Elk Hunting guide in Arizona and Wyoming.

Teenaged pregnancies I have had to deal with:


Teenagers with STDs I've had to deal with: (remember that if the kids didn't want me informed I wasn't, but I would have expected those kind of beans to be spilled after the fact)


I call that a 100% success rate for my method, with my kids.

Sarah Palin has had one daughter so far reach the age of 17. One daughter, one teenaged pregnancy.

I call that a 100% success rate too. Just not the results I was looking for.

I don't have a problem with Sarah Palin's choices as a mother. They just aren't my choices.

I absolutely have a problem with her insistence that she makes, through her position in government, decisions of a personal nature for my family.

If she wants to limit the information her daughters and sons get about sex and sexuality, that's fine by me. If she wants to take every choice but carrying every pregnancy to term regardless of the risks and consequences off the table, hell, it's her family.

If she wants to make those choices for my family, I say "No, thank you." Her results are not acceptable for my family.

If she wants to legislate those choices for my family, she, and everybody who thinks like that will have a fight on their hands.

How long the fight is will be totally up to them. They will have a fight. I will not yield. Ever.