At 1:00 today, I was prepping dinner and the kids were playing. The TV wasn’t on even though the Steelers game had just started. We stopped watching NFL games in our house this season. It’s refreshing to no longer plan our day around football. An hour of the game was spent at the park this afternoon – it was sunny and warm enough to be outside without a coat. The kids played at the playground while I got some exercise and on several occasions Ruslan chased me through the field. Our time was much better spent outside than in front of the TV.
The only thing that has been difficult about not watching NFL games has been my regular football chats with my Dad. I started watching football with my dad at a very young age; I have always been a football fan. My dad and I have always talked about football together.
When the Ray Rice story hit the media this summer, I told my dad that I was considering not watching any NFL games. I couldn’t support the NFL when it was clear to me that they had no respect for women. We talked about the allegations and what I heard from my dad included a good dose of victim blaming because that’s the story he was hearing in the media. By the time the video came out, he was hearing more facts and was shocked at the statistics on domestic abuse.
At that point I realized that my dad probably had no idea about how difficult my first marriage was, after all I did a great job of keeping those details to myself. I was embarrassed and miserable – being yelled at everyday, having things thrown at you, and being made to feel worthless - these are not the stories that you want to tell your friends and family. One day stands out among the others, an occasion that made me realize I couldn’t stay with my ex-husband anymore. He brought a dozen roses home for me one day which was a huge surprise. My immediate response wasn’t appreciative enough so he took them away, told me that I didn’t deserve them, and snapped them in half.
By the time we separated, I didn’t recognize myself and it took me a long time to rebuild my self-esteem. I was lucky. I had a good job. I stayed home on a random weekday and called my mom. I told her that I needed to move in with them and I packed my bags. It was hard to admit that I had screwed up, that I had made a bad choice, that I couldn’t make my marriage work. But I had options and I realized that I needed to get out before things got worse. Many women don’t have those options and when an organization like the NFL doesn’t make a clear statement, the abusers are validated.
But why stop watching NFL games? What does it really accomplish? Aside from not buying Steelers merchandise, there is no real impact to the NFL.
Like so many other decisions Juliana, Ruslan and Wyatt influence most of the choices that I make.
Juliana knows that both Scott and I were previously married and she’s old enough to ask questions. Why didn’t you want to stay married to that other man? How did you know that you didn’t want to stay married anymore? I keep the answers simple – he wasn’t nice to mommy, he didn’t respect me, he made me sad. She asks me why I would marry someone who wasn’t nice to me and we talk about respect and making good choices about the people that we choose to spend our time with.
Juliana has started to echo these conversations when she talks about getting married – instead of saying that she wants to marry someone who is rich or is really cute, she tells me that she wants to marry someone who makes her happy and treats her with respect.
I want to be a good example to them. I want to help them avoid the bad choices that I’ve made in my life and learn from my mistakes. I want them to believe in themselves and be confident in who they are. I want them to make decisions based on their belief system. I want to raise children who will stand up to bullies and support those who are not as strong.
I want them to grow up free to be who they are.