Women modeling intelligence and ability

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One of the resources last week for my Introduction to Mass Communication course (which is excellent, by the way) was a TED Talk by Colin Stokes entitled, “How movies teach manhood.” Here it is:

Colin Stokes: "How Movies Teach Manhood" TED Talk

Colin Stokes: “How movies teach manhood” TED Talk

Movies are a powerful media influence on growing boys and girls, and I appreciate the validity in consciously including movies that pass the Bechdel Test; however, there is a force that I think is much more powerful than any outside influence: parental modeling.

My kids have watched me work very hard through my first three semesters of college. They have seen me do my homework before anything else. They have watched my progress and how achievement has helped me see myself in a more positive way.

Sadly, they have watched me struggle with chronic Lyme disease, too. They see me do homework and nothing else some days because that is all that I have to give. I hit the Lyme wall and productivity abruptly halts for the day, and sometimes several days.

They also see me continue to push past my limitations. On those days when I am so tired I don’t think I can walk through the grocery store or Target or Walmart or the warehouse store and I want so badly to just plop down in one of those motorized scooters with the little basket in front, I always ask them what they think. They always protest, I agree they are right, and I push myself a little more, past the pain and exhaustion. It never kills me.

The other day they were able to see something different. My auto mechanic son moved out a few months ago, and sadly we are not really talking. He struggles with untreated bipolar disorder, and for now distance is best for both of us. So when my passenger side window made this awful noise and then slid down into the door of my car, I didn’t panic. I felt a teensy bit panicky because I knew I didn’t have the tools or even the money for parts. But I didn’t allow the panic to show. I reassured my 21-year-old that it wasn’t his fault (it happened while he was trying to roll the window up), dropped him off at work, and said we would fix it. I drove home, grabbed his 18-year-old brother and told him that we were heading to the auto parts store to buy the tools we would need to open the door panel. I had him call ahead to see if they had a 3 or 4 mm hex tool. I learned that it was actually a torx tool that was needed, purchased the tool and drove home.

We learned right away that getting the door panel off on my car is not intuitive. After a quick internet search and one YouTube video, we were back outside. Within 5 minutes the door panel was off and it was obvious what the problem was: broken window regulator rollers. Quick internet check, parts available for less than $10, and I was thrilled. I called my local auto parts store (not a chain) and ordered the parts. I was assured they would be ready for pick-up the next morning. Whew!

The next morning, I purchased the replacement rollers. When I got home, I started the job myself because my sons were busy playing video games and on the computer. Strangely enough they showed up within minutes. I had already removed the window from the door, removed the broken rollers, and cleaned out the tracks. I found a gouge in one of the tracks that needed to be filed and smoothed out. No files. I ended up using a nail file. Yes, women and their nail files rule!!! Within minutes the tracks were ready for a fresh application of graphite lubricant (which I keep in my tool bag). My 21-year-old insisted on doing this job until the rollers had no resistance at all. We had a lot of people working on this simple job, and a teensy bit of jostling for who was going to do what (those boys were suddenly motivated), but the window was soon ready to be reinstalled.

This part definitely benefited from all three sets of hands. I got the window back in the door and my sons guided the regulator into the rollers. I could not have done this part. It took strength to push the rollers into the regulator. Lots of strength. First try we failed to get one side in the vinyl door track properly, so apart it came and we tried again. Finally, the window was installed and working properly. A few more minutes to put the door panel and trim back on and it was as good as new.

I knew when that window stopped working that my sons would be worried. We have one car that we share among the three adults. We don’t have a backup. I knew that I had to model composure, problem-solving skills and resourcefulness. I involved my 18-year-old son because he needs to learn how to deal with auto parts stores, what kinds of tools are needed to work on different cars, and to know that family is there for one another, and that if we work together, we can get the job done.

That repair cost me about $25. That is a record low, to be honest, and I am grateful that it wasn’t more. The lessons my sons learned are priceless.

They learned how to calmly deal with a crisis. They learned that women are good in crises. They learned not to put off auto repairs (especially if you can’t secure your vehicle). They learned that women are smart and capable. They learned that their mom really is mechanically inclined (I love to fix things and have my own power tools). They also learned that family working together, not criticizing one another (which was the norm for a long, long time) is awesome. I knew that teaching my sons to respect the abilities of women was very important, and I deliberately used this experience for that purpose. Occasionally, being a parent isn’t a big struggle. I walked away from this experience with a lot of warmth in my heart for my sons.

Now I wonder if we can change my oil . . .

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