Not my normal post style, but I wanted to share.
What will people remember about me?
I’m anxious. I get frustrated when things don’t go perfectly. I’m a terrible housekeeper, a terrible proofreader. My mom calls me “opinionated.” I nag her for smoking. I nag my dad for being in a relationship that has caused a rift between the two of us. I’m a tech geek and I love photography. I feel a lot of anger toward religious people that I’m still struggling to let go. I’m not that great of a friend because I’m 31 and I’m just now finding out who I really am. Are these the things people will remember? Are these things even important to who I am?
Will they know I love my family with all that I am? Will they know that lazy Sunday mornings filled with donuts and Starbucks and lounging around the house are some of my favorite moments with my little family? Will my girls know that they are the most precious gifts I’ve ever received?
I worry that most people see me as the outspoken, equal-rights preaching, atheist heathen who is raising godless kids and telling them it’s ok to be gay. People see these things as bad things. To me, they’re good. To me, I’m giving my girls the best chance at becoming loving, accepting, caring adults with successful lives. I worry only my closest family will know that what I’m doing is good for my kids. I want to be remembered as a good mother, but I know a lot of people don’t see it that way.
How will I be remembered? Will my husband have reminders of my unwavering love for him? When I’m gone, will he know that he saved me? Will he know that every day with him was my heaven? I was always taught that you can’t put your faith in people, that people will always let you down. Seven years later, my husband has never let me down. He’s lifted me up more than any person I’ve ever met. I believe in him, and his dedication to our family. I believe he will always take care of us, and if I go first, he’ll always take care of our girls. He puts our marriage and our children before everything else in his life. He makes his life decisions based upon what is best for us, not for him. When I’m gone, I hope I’m remembered for being the wife he needed. Most people have no idea just how much he’s done for me. He truly saved me.
I’ve done a lot of good things for people without taking credit or even telling anyone. I tried to be generous with my time and money. When I’m gone, how will I be remembered?
I’ll do the best I can with this one life I have. I’ll hug and kiss my girls every day. I’ll be a good wife for my amazing husband. I’ll work hard and play harder. I want to be remembered as someone who stood up for those who needed a strong voice in this world. I want to be remembered for raising amazing children. When I’m gone, I want to be remembered for love.
Tolerance is defined by Dictionary.com as
1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.
Acceptance is defined as
2. favorable reception; approval; favor.
I don’t like the word tolerance. There’s something about it that makes me think “putting up with” or “dealing with.” Saying, “I’m tolerant of Islam,” is like saying, “I put up with Muslims.” I know that this is probably not what most people mean when they say they’re tolerant of religious people, but that’s what it sounds like to me. We tolerate the heat here in Oklahoma. We tolerate our neighbors who like to fight in the street every weekend. We tolerate things that are irksome, but that we must suffer through because we live on this planet.
And, acceptance, while a bit more favorable, is still a fine line. I don’t agree with Christians, but I accept them as human beings and I realize they have a valid opinion. I don’t accept when they try to force their beliefs on me or force their arcane laws into government, but I understand why they want to live their own lives the way they do. I don’t accept (or approve of) their religion. But I do accept them as people, and there are many Christians I love. I teach my children that religious people have a set of beliefs by which they live their lives, and that ours are different, but I make sure my kids know that loving people is the most important thing they can do in this world to show acceptance.
Tolerance, with it’s inclusion of permissive, says “I’m allowing this to occur.” Acceptance, with its inclusion of approval, says “I approve of this.” So, am I tolerating Christianity or accepting it? I’m tolerating the religion while accepting the person as equal. That’s the only definition that makes sense to me. I would never treat a Christian as lower than myself. I would never try to take away their basic rights (to marry whomever they please, to pray where and when they want, to worship). But because their beliefs pretty much require them to force their religion upon other people, I cannot approve of it. I believe it’s dangerous to do so and it goes against the reason and logic I’ve used to get to where I am now.
Christians, on the other hand, don’t tolerate or accept. Now, there are some exceptions in Christians who believe in equal rights, but many in my neck of the woods believe other religions (or lack thereof) are Satan’s way of stealing god’s flock. They believe homosexuality is a lifestyle choice that bad people make. They refuse to tolerate it, and many refuse to accept them as equal people. This, to me, is where Christianity is failing.
Webster’s online also defines acceptance as: “to regard as proper, normal, or inevitable [...]” This is the definition I like. Christianity is inevitable, and atheists tend to treat it as such. However, we watch out for our freedoms. We watch out for those whose lot in life is not as easy as others. We stand up for the basic rights of those who are being oppressed by particular groups. We don’t accept Christianity in terms of approving of it, but we know it’s not going away. We know we must keep a watchful eye.
Christians – homosexuality and other religions are inevitable. Not everyone believes as you do, and thinking everyone eventually will is silly. You can be a watchdog, but you can’t force people to live by your beliefs. Attempting to do so makes you a bigot. You think you’re not a bigot, but you are, no matter what your motivation.
What are your thoughts on tolerance vs. acceptance? Are they different? What are your feelings toward religion? Do you accept it, or tolerate it, or a combination of both?
I get a lot of traffic from searches related to spanking and discipline. Some of you are landing on my page looking for spanking videos. Ha! But many of you come here looking for advice on discipline for your freethinking child, and you also come here to find out how religious parents discipline their children. I’ve written about this subject a few times before. You can read about the sleepover incident here, and about the spanking incident here. I’d like to go into more detail about our family’s approach to discipline and why we do what we do.
First of all, as you may have read in previous posts, I was disciplined by spanking with a heavy belt or thin tree branch (a “switch” in Southern terms). I’m sure I deserved punishment for whatever I did, but the punishment I got often left huge welts on my butt and upper thighs. Many times the spanking was done bare-bottomed, and many times it happened several hours after my crime occurred. This meant I had to dread the spanking until my dad got home that evening. I don’t want to make it sound like I was abused, because I don’t feel that I was. I do think my parents could have used punishment as a way to teach and guide me, rather than a way to inflict pain. What was accomplished? I became scared of my dad and his belt. I became fearful. I became angry.
As a new mother, I started out spanking my oldest daughter as punishment. However, I read a great book that was given to me by my in-laws called John Rosemond’s New Parent Power!. Actually, my copy is very old and is just called Parent Power, but it’s an excellent book with great tips on getting your kids to go to bed without fussing, dealing with common issues, and, of course, discipline. Rosemond says in my copy of Parent Power that spanking should happen immediately when the incident occurs, and it should always be the parent’s hand to the child’s butt. One swift smack to get their attention. This worked well for me in the beginning, but I began to use spanking for every. Little. Thing. I realized that it was becoming a problem and that my daughter wasn’t learning anything. She became scared of my hand. I was a new mom going off what I learned from my parents. But my husband rarely got spanked, and encouraged me to find a more effective and less traumatizing mode of discipline.
When my second child was old enough to get into trouble, my husband and I took a different approach. We now reserve spanking for only the worst incidents, and only to get the child’s attention if we can’t do that any other way. We’ve found that we spank very little (and almost never) these days. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I spanked.
Some people will say that not spanking is the reason children grow up with mental problems, but I believe that’s a whole other parenting beast related to parents simply not being there and talking to their children the way they should. Trust me, I struggle with this daily since my dad rarely talks to me. It’s been this way for years. I can understand how that would mess a kid up. But, I digress.
Not spanking has given us a chance to teach our children how to be polite, sensitive, and thoughtful people. We take every opportunity to get them to mind their manners, be kind to others, and respect their elders. We use time outs. We ground them from the iPad and iPod, which, by the way, have been integral to our oldest daughter learning how to read. I’ll do another post on that very soon. We get compliments on how well-behaved and polite our girls are, and I know it’s because we use discipline as a way of guiding, rather than punishing.
I don’t know why spanking seems to be a religious parenting thing, but I intend for the belt lashings to stop with me. It’s just not the way I want to do things. As an atheist, I approach child-rearing with the intent to teach and guide, rather than dictate and rule. Does this make sense?
That being said, I do not think there is anything wrong with spanking if it is used appropriately. I do not think my parents used it appropriately. I think they spanked out of anger and also because they didn’t know how else to get us to do what they wanted.
Do you spank? How do you discipline your children? Are there any discipline-related topics you’d like me to explore?
As you may or may not know, I denounced Christianity in adulthood. I was raised as a Southern Baptist and this is what I always knew. It took courage and time to break the ties I had with Christianity, and even though it’s been years, it still isn’t easy. In fact, the thing I struggle with the most is finding people to whom I can relate. In Oklahoma, this is very difficult, but the Internet has made it possible to read the stories of people who, like me, came to realize the truth. In these stories, I find comfort. I find advice. I find common ground.
Generation Atheist, by Dan Riley, is a collection of stories about how and why 25 young people came to be atheists.
Two of the stories in the book are those of people I consider personal heroes in the atheist community. The first is Jessica Ahlquist. I first read about Jessica at The Friendly Atheist (who is my other hero mentioned in Generation Atheist, but we’ll get to that in a bit!). Her story is one of bravery and strength, and there were details revealed in Dan Riley’s book that I had not read on the interwebs. As a parent, her journey gives me hope that there are young people who see the danger of bringing religion into schools. Her story gives me courage and makes me want to speak out. I only hope my children are as brave and strong as she is. Living where we do, they’re going to nee all the courage they can muster!
My second atheist hero whose story is in Generation Atheist is Hemant Mehta, speaker, atheist blogger at The Friendly Atheist, and author of I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith through an Atheist’s Eyes. Hemant is outspoken and comfortable in his lack of faith. His blog was one of the first resources I found as a new atheist, and his advice was always helpful and comforting in a time of such confusion.
Riley’s book is a great read for anyone who wants to know why and how people become atheists. If you need to relate to other atheists, if you need to read about their struggles and victories, Generation Atheist is for you. For more information on Dan Riley, and to read excerpts of the book, visit his website. Or if you’re already intrigued, head over to Amazon and buy it now.
Note: This is a non-paid book review.
How I feel being a de-converted parent, via Reddit.
One thing I’ve mentioned before is my concern that freethinking children growing up in Oklahoma might experience bullying or exclusion because they question faith. I’ve recently started having conversations with my oldest daughter abut different family types – adopted kids, blended families, families with two mommies or two daddies. I have specific reasons for wanting her to understand different family types, which I will elaborate on at another time. It’s just important to my husband and I that she understand that not all families have a mommy, daddy, and two girls, and that not all children “were in the mommy’s tummy” and that sort of thing.
So we were having one of these discussions yesterday, talking about how sometimes two mommies or two daddies fall in love and want to adopt children to love and care for. My daughter said, “Mommy, I know who I want to marry. I want to marry a girl, and I want to find a baby to love.” It was very sweet, and I explained that she has lots of time to decide who she wants to marry and whether or not to raise children. I told her now is the time to have fun and be a little girl, which she seemed very relieved about.
But this conversation brought up a fear in me. I’m afraid for her. We’ve talked about this before and she’s mentioned she “loves girls” and things of that nature. I realize she’s only 6, but I also realize there may be something to this. Some kids realize they are homosexual or bisexual at a very young age without actually knowing what it is. Honestly, whether she is gay, bi, transgender, or whatever, that’s not what worries me. I love her and she’s my child and that’s that. What worries me is what she will face while growing up in a conservative town and state. What worries me is that she’ll grow up in a place where people think love is only possible between and man and a woman, and anything else is sinful. I have experienced some pain due to “coming out” as an atheist, but nothing like what I imaging many gay people experience when telling people who they are. I worry I won’t know what to tell her.
So my approach is this: to love her. Loving her unconditionally will show her she is worthy of love. It will show her that there are people in this world for whom sexuality, gender, or skin color do not factor into a person’s potential to be loved. No matter who she is, who she was born to be, she will be loved. I know bullying and peer pressure will happen at some point because of something, whether she’s gay, not gay, a band geek, or the popular kid, but showing her she is worthy of love, affection, and success is probably the best thing I can do to build her confidence and help her combat it in the future.
Just some random thoughts from a mommy who wants her girls to grow up in a world filled with love.
As freethinkers, we want our kids to be able to examine and weigh evidence and makes decisions based in truth. There are many healthy ways to encourage freethinking and skepticism in your children. Here are a few things I do with my girls.
Read. We read every day, usually multiple times a day. We read “girl” books, “boy” books, science books, and fiction. We read silly stories and serious ones. And we talk about the stories we read. We visit thrift stores to get books for cheap, then donate them back when we need fresh ones. Books give us a fresh perspective on a wide range of subjects.
Explore. We go outside and talk about what we see and hear. I’m not big on playing in the dirt unless it’s my garden, but my in-laws have sandbox time and they let the girls make mud pies. We get them out into the world and try to answer any questions they have. We ask them questions about what they see and hear and try to get them to come to their own conclusions. We look at close up pictures of insects and talk about why they might look they way they do. We want them to see how much there is to discover in the world.
Talk. We talk often, about anything and everything. I’ll tell them about outer space as we’re driving in the car, or we’ll talk about the buildings we see and how engineers design them. This constant dialogue helps my children understand just how much there is to know about the world. Right when they think they have it mastered, new things come up.
Immerse. We like our children to be exposed to different cultures. We talk about Native Americans and their rol in history. We discuss how things are done in other countries. We take them to eat sushi and make homemade miso soup. We talk about other languages. We look at art and do art together. We like them to know that there are people who do things different from our family. This includes Christians, and we talk about what it means to Christians when they pray, noting that “Mommy and Daddy do not pray. We figure out how to fix problems.” Both girls even went to a Christian preschool for a while. It’s important to understand the bible and it’s significane to people who live in our area.
Encourage. Teach your children to attempt to answer they’re own questions, even if they get it wrong. Why is the sky blue? Well, why do you think it’s blue? Once they answer, you can explain how Rayleigh scattering causes the sky to appear blue. Encouraging them to answer their own questions before you provide an answer will help them realize that they don’t have to be told the answer to everything. Sometimes they’ll get questions correct, and this build confidence. If they ask something you don’t know they answer to, you can look it up together. Asking and answering questions develops a hungry mind.
The main thing my husband and I do is try not to immediately answer a question without some sort of discussion or assistance in helping them figure out the answer on their own. Our children ask intelligent questions about anything and everything, and they’re thirsty for knowledge.
How do you encourage free thought in your children?
You’re probably getting tired of hearing about the situation with my daughter and her friend, but we’ve had yet another incident. My daughter has mentioned in the past that she and her friends play “house,” and that one of them is the mommy or the daddy or the kid. Through discussing this playtime with my daughter, I learned that her friend, whom you can read about here or here (or even here) has been routinely “paddling” my daughter. It happens when they’re playing outside, sometimes during P.E. in the gym, and sometimes in line while they’re waiting for things. It’s not a one or two time deal, according to my daughters. She says it happens almost daily. Kids have a crazy sense of time, but based on the different situations she’s described, I believe her that it’s happening regularly.
Now, to be clear, I detest that word – paddle. It reminds me of my childhood, when threats of a-paddlin’ were how I was
kept under control made to behave. We rarely spank in my house. It’s just not how we dole out punishment. My husband and I reserve it for rare moments when immediate action must be taken to correct a terribly offensive behavior at that exact moment. And my girls are generally very polite and well-behaved, so those moments are few and far between. There are no threats of spanking. Agree or disagree, but that’s how we do things in my home. But, I digress.
So I hear about the “paddling” that’s going on and I instruct my daughter to tell her friend that it is inappropriate to a) hit someone and b) touch someone else’s private parts. We talk about personal space and privacy a lot because I want my girls to understand when touching is and is not appropriate. This is a big deal. I know that sexual abuse can really mess with a child. I’ve personally never experienced it, but I have friends who have, and I’ve seen how difficult it is to overcome. So, I tell my daughter to tell her friend these things, and I hope that this will stop it. At this point, I know they’re playing and I don’t want to make a huge deal out of it.
Fast forward to this morning, when my daughter tells me “paddling” happened again yesterday. I dug deeper. I asked if my daughter was doing any of the spanking. I asked if she had been touching anyone’s bottom. She said no and no, that it was her friend and it was happening when her friend pretended to get angry with her child. I wrote a note to her teacher, briefly explaining the situation, and she called me this morning. She told me that she didn’t know anything about it, which isn’t surprising. The problem is that my daughter didn’t understand that anything “bad” was going on. I hope now she understands that it’s inappropriate. I don’t want her thinking it’s ok to put her hands on another kid’s rear end. But now her teacher knows, and my daughter knows that it’s wrong.
I hope that addressing it with the teacher will solve the issue because I haven’t spoken to the girl’s mother in a while. I’m pretty sure she got the point after our last conversation. But if I have to contact her about this, I will. It’s one thing for their home life to affect their child. It’s entirely different when it starts affecting mine. I can only hope they are in a different class next year…and I will probably request it.
The thing that makes me the angriest/saddest about this whole situation is that this little girl is subjected to religious discipline. I remember what it was like. I was spanked with a heavy leather belt. I can still remember being bent over the bed while my dad lashed me. I remember the marks. I remember being spanked for the smallest things. I remember having to pick out my own “switch” for my grandma to smack me with. All it did was make me fearful and resentful. I hate that this little girl is growing up this way. I hate that her “loving, Christian family” uses violence as discipline. I believe this regular spanking of my child is an indication of what she is experiencing at home.
If you’re a long-time reader of mine, you may remember I’ve been dealing with the very religious parent of my daughter’s best friend, as well as the sleepover incident. Well, it finally happened. We had “the talk.” And boy, was it hard! Here’s the story.
The mother called me to ask if my daughter could have another sleepover. At this point, I’d been avoiding her like the plague, hoping my excuses would drive her away. No such luck. I decided to get it all out in the open. I explained that that my daughter had become very concerned about god and spirituality – something I believe a 6-year-old is too young to deal with. I told the woman that it is difficult for us to encourage her to be a freethinker when she is exposed (at such a young and vulnerable age) to religious dogma. And then, the most amazing thing happened…
She said, “I understand. If you were telling my child that god doesn’t exist, I’d probably be very angry with you. I get where you’re coming from.”
Whoa. Totally unexpected. The rest of the conversation consisted of her asking questions about atheism – what I believe happens when we die, how did I “become an atheist,” and how I explain death to my children. It was mind-blowing. She then explained why she needs religion, and things began to make sense. The woman is broken. She struggles with co-dependency and depression, and her god makes her feel alive, and helps her cope with life. I get that. I’ve been there. I’ve just learned to deal with my struggles in a different way.
The whole experience went much better than I expected, and now she no longer asks if my child can sleep over. We agreed that if the girls see each other outside of school, that both of us will be present to address any religion issues that come up. It’s a good solution, and I’m so glad I told the truth. Who knows? Maybe this woman’s mind has been opened. She sees that I’m a good parent, a responsible person, and that I give of my time and money when I can. I hope she sees that atheists are good people. I hope I’m giving non-believers a good name.
I’ve graduated from college (YAY!) and I found out yesterday I’ve been accepted into the graduate program I’m interested in. I start this summer! I’m well on my way to teaching!
Also, I’ve added Feedburner to my site, so you can subscribe in a reader or via email! Do it!