Better parenting through fear- a Friday the 13th post
If you read parenting books or websites, you'll see a wide variety of theories on how we can help our kids avoid making mistakes or do dangerous things. Helicopter Parenting! Free Range Parenting! Religion! No religion! Fear of punishment! Non coercion! the parent is always right! Open debate is encouraged!
We agonize, we make these decisions, in the hopes that our kids will exit their teenage years alive, with all their limbs intact, and hopefully without making us grandparents (unless we are OK with that because we don't want to make value judgments).We want them to stick with the buddy system in the hopes they won;t be mugged or raped or pressured into taking drugs. It can be hard to know what parenting decisions can produce the desired result.
But what if it's not that difficult. What if I told you that I'm pretty sure my kids aren't going to go parking in a cemetery...or the woods...or a cornfield? Or go drinking and having sex with all their friends in a cabin in the woods at spring break? What if I told you I lay all the credit for this at the virtual feet of Netflix?
That's right, I'm a Bad Parent. And by Bad Parent, I mean the type of parent who lets her kids watch the kind of TV shows and movies that both sweet peace loving hippie moms and nice Christian moms (both categories I identify with), do not approve of. Buffy. Angel. Supernatural. Horror movies starting with silent black and white films and going the whole way up to adaptations of Stephen King books. Shows that show that actions have consequences: like splitting up, like allowing yourselves to become isolated, like getting drunk and having your reflexes inhibited. We all know that's when the killer (who is perhaps a beast from mythology) will burst out of the bushes and tear you to shreds.
So a little fear? It's a good thing, maybe. Even if the monsters will probably be all too human. Now, if I could just convince my kids that they'd be happy they worked out if they had to run from a psycho killer...
How being a religious progressive is like being a good man (are you like that?)
Over the past couple of weeks, I've been pondering how I can relate to the "not all men" issue from the place of my own experiences. In the course of these weeks, I've engaged in several conversations with men on that topic, one of which I felt went well and renewed my dedication to respectful discourse.
My experiences as a progressive Christian in a world where my religion is often painted as conservative and narrow minded serves well. It's difficult to see "all people like you" lambasted for the extreme actions of a crazy few. It's easy to want to protest "not all of us"...and I have, frequently, in the past. I'm sure I still do. But one thing I have learned by listening to marginalized people is that verbally protesting "But we're not all like that!" is at best, meaningless, and at worst, sounds like one is protesting too much. I have done my best to stop doing that. That's why I chose not to involve myself with the Not All Like That Christians Project
, even though I support being open and affirming. Because I know how people react to the "not all like that" phrase, I instead choose to share positive stories of religious people working for full equality. When someone posts about the excesses of a "prosperity gospel" preacher, I remind myself not to say "Not all pastors are like that!"...I know it won't be long until I can share another story of Pope Francis humbly advocating for the poor. And I have made a vow to share the positive stories...of people, whether my co-coreligionists or not, who make a positive difference in this world.
The thing is, you can't change someone's perception of the group you belong to by protesting that you are good , that others in your group are good. You need to BE it. You need to show it. You need to share positivity in it's own space, and not shout it over the words of the marginalized.
Braiding and hand holding
When you take the parenting path I did, there's a lot of physical contact. For the first year of my kids' lives, my body was their main source of nutrition,I wore my babies, and they all slept in the family bed for 2-3 years.
And then they get older and that fades, reduced to a hug now and then if you're lucky. I can see my youngest leaving that phase.
But I still have a small thing with my daughter, my middle child. My child who breastfed and coslept the longest. She still wants me to braid her hair.
She's 15, and she's had two trims in her life (her choice). She has waist length hair that tends to wave. As often as not, she'll come to me in the evening after her shower, when my husband and I are sitting watching something probably produced by BBC, or maybe Syfy, while I knit. She brings her hair brush and ties. I put down my knitting, detangle her hair, and braid two braids. I take my time. I don't know how long she'll ask.
This week, my two younger kids had their standardized testing. It's held at a church about a mile from our house,so we walk. As we were walking home, she walked ahead, holding hands with her 11 year old brother. This also is passing,way too fast.
Because things like this happen when we talk about rape culture
A few days ago, in response to the two shootings in California, I posted this on my facebook and other social media"
It's no longer enough for those of us raising sons to teach them manners or "how to treat a lady" or even to have a father who is a wonderful example. We have to specifically teach our sons "Don't rape, threaten, or kill a girl for turning you down." Anything less is no longer enough.
I have come to expect, over the past couple of years, that when I post something about the basic safety of women, or about privilege, there are a couple of acquaintances sure to chime in with a dissenting opinion ("Not all men are like that!" "I'm a straight white man and I sure don't feel privileged!") Now, on many topics I am open to and even encourage a certain amount of respectful dissent; that's how we learn about each other, how to respect those with different opinions. But in this case, one of my usual suspects chimed in with the opinion that:
- Sexual assault statistics are overblown
- That it would be damaging to specifically teach our boys not to rape and kill
- That people (I'm assuming girls) must be taught that HOW THEY REJECT PEOPLE HAS CONSEQUENCES
- That women's concerns about their safety were baseless
He continued in this vein, even when several women shared their stories of sexual assault. The disrespect was painful.
It's worth noting at this point that this man was on my friends list via a fan club we have both been members of. Among other reasons, I have drifted away from the group due to an underlying culture of objectification. It's just not fun to costume up and play pretend with other geeks when you know you'll be objectified ( this has even gone to the point of "jokes" about taking out my husband to make me available. But it's a compliment, you know!) Since I am unlikely to have the uncomfortable experience of seeing this man again, I unfriended him. He later messaged me thanking me for taking down the conversation because it was "getting too personal). I responded that because he so often dismissed women's fears, I had unfriended him and was now blocking him (which I did).
He sent me an email saying "things had gone too far". I sent it to Spam. So far, nothing more.
My experience is a mild one. In all of this, I have never felt unsafe. I haven't been threatened. I feel fortunate for that. Many women do face threats when we speak out against rape culture. Which is why we must never stop doing it.
The year turns, life turns
The year has started winding up for us. As seems to happen almost every year at this point, some endings were final, and lead to new phases in life. My youngest has finished Greek for the year, although most of his subjects will be worked on until the end. He's had his last performance with the children's vocal choir, last day of children's Sunday School, and last polishing with the children's bell choir. Next year, he is on to confirmation and youth activities.
My daughter has taken her last ever confirmation test. She's an essay, a catechization, and a few months waiting from being an adult member of our church. She's finishing math and history for the year this week.
My eldest is finishing up his first year on the Youth leadership team and in community college. My mind boggles at this!
My best friend's son is moving away for good tomorrow, and we realise that will be happening to us, too. My husband and I spoke this weekend about how we need to get back into the habit of working on the yard together again, as our indentured servitude will start leaving before we know it.
Two things I am not imagining
When we have vague discomforts or symptoms, we often get told it's in our heads. This past week has show me two things I can cross off that list.
For the past few weeks, I've been measuring my waist on Fridays. Last Friday, I was shocked to find my girth 1.75 inches larger than the previous weeks. I measured several times, to be sure. Sure enough, I soon noticed other symptoms of what would be my period (which I don't really get due to having an endometrial ablation a year and a half ago- side note: if you know babies aren't in your future and have the means, consider this procedure! It changed my life for the better). So yes, ladies, if you feel like you bloat a LOT, you're not imagining it.
Secondly, I ran out of Zyrtec over the weekend a couple of factors (time and money...when are they ever NOT my factors?!) kept me from getting more until Monday. I learned a two things over that span of time:
- I really, really do respond to Benadryl in the opposite way of almost the entire population. Trying to substitute Benadryl for Zyrtec lost me two nights of sleep.
-I really need allergy medication, and not just for a "stuffy nose". Without it, I have headaches, a sore throat, and the skin all over my body itches. I'm pretty much allergic to life on earth.
Fighting rape culture and the however of having a teenage daughter
I feel like being a feminist and fighting rape culture when you’re the parent of a teenage girl is full of howevers. I can teach my sons not to rape, but I have limited ability to teach other people’s sons not to rape (yet another reason to work in youth ministry). So I have to teach my daughter to avoid rape. I have to teach her self defense skills, to not walk alone after dark, to not go off alone with a boy.I have to teach her not to wear provocative clothing. I will have to teach her to keep her keys in her hand, to not let her drink out of her eyesight, to be careful of how much she drinks when she’s not in a crowd. I am a feminist. I will fight against rape culture every day of my life. But I will never bet my daughter’s safety on others doing the same.