Category Archives: Parenting

The Secret Language of Our Family a.k.a. Talking About Farts

You know what I’m talking about, Ladymoms and Gentledads. I’m talking about when dad rips one and the kids crack up laughing and mom gives dad the side-eye but cracks a smile anyway. Then a conversation about digestion ensues when the 6-year old asks why farts smell so bad.

It’s the stuff we talk about in our home, when it’s just parent and kid. When we are comfortable educating our children about the wonders of reproduction, what being gay is and why we believe love is love, what being racist is and why we have to leave the room when my 81-year-old grandfather starts talking.

And conversations about why we don’t wipe our boogers in certain places, what cat hairballs are made of, and all manner of bodily function questions, all involving Google or Siri for facts.

Sometimes we talk about not-so-gross stuff. I mean, I do have two girls. So I get the occasional “why do people wear makeup and bras?” or “why do you shave your armpits, Mommy?” type questions.

I don’t know about you, but I love these conversations. I love that my husband and I are the ones answering these questions for them instead of their peers (or, in the case of many of their friends, churches.)

We allow our girls to talk more openly about these things at home, and we specify that home is the best place to discuss these types of things at their age. They seem to get it, and they never hesitate to ask questions.

I know a lot of parents who feel nervous talking about sex with their kids, and while it isn’t my favorite thing to talk about, I think it’s good that we’re teaching them because we know it’s information based on actual facts.

Talk with your kids. About everything, all the time. About how farting works, about skunk stink glands, about their fears, your fears, and current events. Give them the education they need to face a world of loony politicians, angry people and hurting people, heartbreaks and emotional rollercoasters. Arm them with knowledge and they’ll be naturally more curious.

Try it and you’ll love it. You’ll bond over it, I promise you that. And I’m hoping that they’ll be more likely to come to their parents to talk when they’re older. We’re building the foundation now.

How to Deal with Religious Bullying and Spiritual Abuse

My oldest daughter, L, is now in the 3rd grade. Recently she brought home a Chick tract, which a girl in her class brought to give everyone in the 3rd grade. The tract is a “comic” designed to appeal to kids and get their attention, turning the story into the story of how to be “saved by Jesus.” Never mind that the school is allowing the tracts to be passed out to the entire grade (and probably the entire school)! That’s a battle I want to fight. But I digress.

L says this girls bugs her regularly because she knows L doesn’t go to church. It turned into bullying in my view when L asked the girl to stop talking to her about it and the girl refused.

I decided to look up the website on the back of the tract for some background information. I won’t post it here, but let’s just say this girl’s dad is a few fries short of a Happy Meal. His website claims that the “power of Jesus” healed his mental illness and it can “do the same for anyone.” Yikes. Shit just got really real.

My husband and I told L to respond like this: “I’m not interested, so please stop talking to me about it.” And if the girl refuses, we’ll take further action. We were clear with L that she should not respond hatefully, nor should she tell the girl that she’s wrong or try to engage in any kind of argument with her. As we often tell her, you can’t argue with stupid. Probably not the nicest way to put it, but just look up a religious Facebook or YouTube comments argument and you’ll understand.

Anyway, it’s been about 2 months since the last time L came home saying that this girl was bothering her, so it sounds like the kid got the point.

The moral of the story? Respond firmly, but kindly. It’s not this little girl’s fault that her dad is pressuring her to bully. But, I hope L can help her understand it’s not ok to do so.

Two posts in one day…I must be coming down with something…*cough*…

Bee

Making Memories at the Grocery Store

My oldest daughter made a comment this morning that reminded me to write today. She was explaining to her younger sister why we were going to the grocery store so early (9:30 am) on a Sunday. She said, “Mommy likes to get all the shopping done before noon because all the church people are in church. That way the store is not crowded.”

I grinned. She knows me so well. We walked into the nearly empty store and both girls exclaimed, “Wow! There’s no one in here! It’s so empty! Cool!!!” And we had a lovely time shopping together. We weren’t rushed. We weren’t in anyone’s way. We just talked about the delicious meals we have planned for the week played together up and down the aisles.

I’ve said it before on this blog and I’ll say it again…Sundays, for us, are all about family time. Memories were made at the grocery store today. Life is so good.

I hope you’re all well!

Bee

I have proof that I’m raising good kids!

The neighbor kid and my oldest daughter were talking during free time at school today. Then he said it – “Your mom has a really big belly.”

I asked my daughter what she said when he said this. She said, “I told him that is not nice and he shouldn’t say things like that. I don’t think you have a big belly. I think you’re beautiful.”

It was the sweetest, most wonderful thing she could have possibly said. She defended me. She stood up for me. She stood up for propriety, for kindness, for motherhood, and for love.

I am raising one hell of an amazing child.

On the other hand, it was a loud wake-up call. I have not been sticking to the paleo-keto diet that I have been trying so desperately to do. It’s time to start eating clean.

He’ll tell you anything to get you into bed…

…and I want to make sure my daughters know it. I’ve discussed the sex talk in previous posts, but I feel the need to elaborate on one important aspect of young women and sex. He will tell you anything to get you into bed. It bears repeating. I’m not saying that all men are scum, or that all men intend to hurt women. Let me be clear; that is not what I’m saying. What I am saying is young men have a high sex drive, and they want to get some. It doesn’t mean they’re bad guys. It’s very natural. But this means that young women need to exert control over their bodies and make decisions that keep them out of harm’s way.

Would you like an example? Sure you would. I warn you, the content may be uncomfortable at times. But these are things that need to be said. In the style of my favorite TV show, The Golden Girls, I’ll tell a story.

Picture it – Oklahoma in the late 1990’s. A girl of only 15, with poor self-esteem and a desire to be broken and humble before her god, is introduced to a handsome older (18-ish) young man. The young man takes her by surprise, showing her attention she’s never gotten before. They begin to date with the permission of the girl’s parents because her parents believe he is an upstanding, church-going young man. Each date they have gets progressively more physical. The young girl, never having been told that a boy might grab her hand and stick it in his pants, doesn’t know what to do. He says he loves her, that it’s ok to touch him. She doesn’t resist because she is afraid the boy won’t love her anymore. In the end, the girl feels incredible guilt and shame from the (very minor) sexual sins she has committed against her god. She shies away from her boyfriend to avoid any sexual contact again. This hurts both the girl and her boyfriend (so she thinks). She begins to cry every night because she is so confused by her physical and emotional conflicts.

One day, another “upstanding,” church-going boy enters her life. This one is about 19 years old, the son of a preacher. She confides in him as a friend, tells him what she’s been through with her boyfriend. He tells her that it’s ok, that she might as well touch him there since she already sinned when she touched her boyfriend there. The girl touches him because her feelings are already in a turmoil and she’s terrified of hurting anyone else at this point.

The preacher’s son takes it upon himself to start feeling guilty and tells his father, the preacher. The preacher calls the girl’s parents to explain what transpired. The preacher’s son can’t keep his mouth shut and soon the gossip has spread through their group of mutual friends. This humiliates the girl, causing her to write things in her diary to the tune of, “I’m so alone in the world. I can’t understand what’s going on. Why is this happening to me when I’ve tried to be a good person and follow god’s plan for my life?” The girl becomes depressed, but doesn’t tell her parents because, well, they’re dealing with their own problems. The youth leader starts preaching about abstinence and sin and defiling the body and all the other evils of teenage life. It becomes unbearable, and the girl sinks deeper into her Bible studies and prayer, almost never missing a journal entry at night. The girl is miserable, and she hides it from everyone, pressing the feels deep, down inside and hoping for the second coming of Christ to rescue her from the big, bad world. Yeah, that’s healthy.

The girl’s parents never did talk to her about sex, but they sent the preacher’s daughter to talk to her, embarrassing her further and making her feel like a slut for not even having intercourse! The girl grew up thinking sex was a dirty, sinful act, but an act that is hard to escape. The girl felt shame and guilt for every sexual encounter thereafter, until she grew up and came to her senses about religion.

The moral of the story? He’ll tell you anything to get you into bed. I wish my parents had told me that. I wish they’d told me how to keep myself out of a bad situation. I wish they’d talked to me about sex, period. I may not have listened, but what if I did? What if they planted the seed that kept me from making a bad choice? I’ll talk to my girls about sex. I’ll make sure they understand that, while many men are wonderful, caring humans who will treat them perfectly, there are others who will take advantage of any and all situations in order to get some sexual contact. It doesn’t mean they’re bad, it just means they’re horny teenagers. Teaching abstinence isn’t the answer; sex education is. Respect and self worth are the answers, too. And just talking. Talking about sex is the answer. But ignoring it? That leads to disaster.

Also, religion sucks. That was difficult to type out, but maybe it will help someone out there understand how important it is to talk to kids and teens about sex. Do it. Don’t wait.

Six Year Olds and God – Keep a Level Head

My oldest daughter’s best friend, who comes from a strict Christian home, came over for a play date last week. The girl’s parents are in China on a “give a Bible to every Chinese kid” mission or some such arrogant nonsense. But I digress. I wanted the girls to get a chance to play under my supervision, so her sitter brought her over.

The next day, my daughter declared, “I can spell G-O-D and I believe in him!” This always happens after a visit with this friend. My husband and I calmly explained that, while it’s ok to make her own choices, we believe she is too young to decide for sure if she believes there is a god. We explained that as she gets older and learns more about the world, she might change her mind.

It’s so hard for an atheist parent to hear exclamations of belief from a child. I have to keep a cool head and remember that she’s only 6, she loves her friend, and she is mimicking her behavior. The best approach I can take is to set a good example for her because she likes to mimic me as well. I must give her space to explore her own thoughts. I didn’t have that as a child and I want to make sure she does. I want to steer her in the direction of science, logic, and reason, but she needs to come to her conclusions on her own. I hope that she’ll naturally choose reason over religion, and I think she will. It’s just so tough to hear her say she believes.

If you’re going through this with your child, hang in there. Remember they’re still young, and their minds are developing. Guide them, but don’t try to force them to believe as you do. The best you can do is show them the path and hope they take it after they’ve weighed all the evidence.

 

A Rant About My Parents

Please bear with me because this will be long. I really need to get some things off my chest. Very few people in my family know that I write this blog, so I’m not really worried about any of them seeing this rant. On the other hand, maybe it would be good if they actually knew how I feel. I want to talk about my parents. This is, after all, a parenting blog.

My parents got divorced when I was in 3rd grade. My mom got custody of my brother and me. Between my 3rd grade and 8th grade years, we were subjected to a host of loser, drug-addict boyfriends, crappy babysitters, and a mom whose time was spent working, partying, or with boyfriends. We moved schools several times and I was never able to make any good friends. My dad or grandma would drive 7 hours to pick us up almost every other weekend. Sometimes my dad would have a six pack of Coors in the backseat floorboard in an Igloo cooler. I remember watching him reach around for another beer while we drove on the highway. He always did his best to see us, though, no matter what obstacles my mom put in his path. This one simple fact is pretty much the only positive feeling I have toward my dad, especially now. We’ll get to the rest in a moment.

When I was in 5th grade, my mom married a horrible man. This was her third marriage. She was married once before my dad, but has no kids from any other marriage. This horrible man treated my brother and I terribly, but my brother got the worst of it. I remember an incident when the man was angry with my brother and held him upside down, by one foot, over a stair case opening. It was terrifying. I remember screaming for him to let my brother down. Thank goodness he did. I think we were lucky. She tried to leave this man several times, each time pulling us out of school and packing our toys and clothes in garbage bags. She kept going back to him. I’m pretty sure he was abusing her, and I know my mom mentioned later on that he’d pulled a gun on her. He never laid a hand on me. I think he knew I’d tell my dad. Finally, about a month into my 8th grade year, my mom decided to leave him for good. She sent my brother and I to Tulsa to live with my dad. She said she needed to get her life together. It was about three years before we saw her again, and she only came to town because my brother developed epilepsy.

So in 8th grade, with my dad and his new wife, life became more stable. This was when the Christian indoctrination truly started. We’d gone to church a lot as kids, especially with my grandparents, but junior high was really the turing point for me. I felt abandoned by mom mom. We were very poor and living in a crappy house in a crappy neighborhood. My dad’s heart belonged to his race car, and he immersed himself in it. He spent every moment he wasn’t at work tinkering with his car. We were dragged to the races, so I tried to make the best of it. Many weekends we were out later than 1 a.m. Looking back, with all the noise, dirt, drinking, and fighting that went on, it wasn’t really a place for kids. I poured my heart and soul into church service, singing, and “witnessing” to others. I believe I did this to escape. I needed to feel loved and I needed to belong. Being so poor and having no friends, church offered a safe place with people who praised me for my talent and gave me friendship when I needed it most.

I began to resent the race car because my dad spent so much time and money on it. His wife felt the same, and things got rocky for them. I applied for Oral Robert’s University’s opera music program, and decided my “calling” was to make a living as a singer. But the idea of losing my (much older) boyfriend kept me from going, and my parents didn’t try to tell me otherwise. I ended up working shit jobs for a long time, until I was offered a professional job that required lots of travel around the year 2001.

Fast forward to about 2006. My dad was divorced. My mom, on her 5th marriage. I had a roommate who was only a few years older than me. My dad came to do a repair at our house and they met. They began to date. It wasn’t bad at first, but it turned into a nightmare.

I ended up with a surprise pregnancy and decided I wanted to raise the child. I met my husband shortly after and life became absolutely grand. My husband showed me the value of education. He showed me that I’m smart and capable of doing great things. This was when my life really changed, and through education and personal research I came to the conclusion that I’m an atheist. I love my husband and we have a wonderful relationship, but in all truth, he saved me. He teases that I would might never have risen up from the redneckery and drama I was in, and he’s probably right.

Fast forward to today. My dad, now in his early 50’s, recently had his mobile home repossessed. This was cosigned by my grandparents, so their credit is now crap. He’s been living with my grandparents, who are in their late 70’s/early 80’s, with his girlfriend (my former roommate) and her two teenage kids. The problems this situation has caused are far too complex to go into here, but I’ll just say that there are a lot of hard feelings. I refuse to speak to his girlfriend because of several incidents involving her children treating my dad poorly. The oldest one hit my dad in the face with a skillet. Yeah. I won’t let her kids near my family.

My dad never sees my children, unless it’s a family event, like a birthday party for my brother’s kids. I can’t text him because his girlfriend reads his texts. She treats me like I’m an ex-girlfriend of his. It’s very bizarre. I call, but he doesn’t answer and rarely calls back. He says he loves me, but I doubt it. Maybe he does, but it sure does hurt when he doesn’t call. When I graduated college, I barely got even a congratulations from him. He didn’t seem proud at all. I’ve tried and tried to connect with him, but to no avail. I know he’s unhappy with this woman, and I know this for reasons I can’t say. But he stays with her, and it makes no sense to me.

My mom lives 7 hours away, and she’s in the middle of her 5th divorce. She calls every now and then, and she answers when I call, so we do get to talk. But she treats my brother like my dad treats me. She hasn’t seen my kids in months. She keeps saying she’s going to move to Tulsa, but I’ll believe it when it happens.

I don’t understand why my parents are ok with missing out on their grandchildren’s lives. I don’t understand why my dad will spend time with my brother, but not with me. I don’t understand why they aren’t proud of me and the things I’ve accomplished, and why they refuse to acknowledge the great things I’ve done with my life.

I try to ignore this part of my life. My in-laws are amazing and wonderful people who love me and their grandchildren. They spend time with us, we love being around them, and they always support and encourage us when we need it. They are the parents I never had. Please don’t think my life is hard or bad, because it’s not. I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.

I’m sure my parents love me. It would be silly to think they don’t, but it seems to me that they really didn’t want to be parents. I just needed to write all this out because it’s been weighing heavily on my mind lately. I’m amazed my brother and I have turned out so normal, coming from what we did. We were lucky. Other kids aren’t so lucky.

Atheists and Discipline – Do you spank?

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?

Sexuality and Consent for Young Kids

Yesterday a friend on Facebook posted an article about teaching kids consent, no matter what age. This came at an appropriate time for me because I am dealing with yet another situation with the same little girl (who is my daughter’s best friend). This little girl and my daughter bonded in pre-k last school year and were put in the same class again this year. The little girl signed up for the same sports team last fall, so the girls spent a lot of time together. The little girl is very touchy-feely. She hangs on my daughter constantly, pulling at her clothes, grabbing her hands, touching her shoulders, and whispering in her ears. I’ve watched this behavior on the playground from afar, and it’s clear to me that it bothers my daughter, but she loves her friend and does not want to tell her to back off.

We had the little girl over last weekend to help the family out in a pinch (otherwise I would have said no!) and I watched this same behavior. I decided to talk to my daughter about personal space and appropriate and inappropriate touching. We’ve talked about this before and my daughter knows about her private parts and such, but I wanted to discuss consent with her. I wanted her to understand that she is allowing her friend to touch her even when it makes her uncomfortable. I used the article about consent to help guide me on what to say, and I think the talks with my daughter turned out well. She must understand consent, and I worry that allowing this little girl to hang all over her is messing with that concept. I instructed her to tell her friend, “Stop, I don’t like that,” whenever she feels uncomfortable from all the touching. I told her to be sure to tell her teacher if the touching does not stop after that. I hoping this will help.

Sometimes I feel like I’m overreacting, but sometimes I feel like this little girls is a very bad influence on my daughter. Her parents make no attempts to teach her anything real about life, and instead threaten her with hell and teach her to pray. This is very confusing for my daughter, who has been taught to face her problems head on all her life. I’ve tried to encourage her to make new friends, but for some reason, she has bonded with this little girl. I don’t understand it because the little girl doesn’t seem to treat her that well. I think it’s time to talk about standing up for herself as well. Thank goodness for the Internet! How did parents do it before the Internet!?

Anyway, I highly recommend the aforementioned article regarding the healthy sex talk. I think talking to our children about these things is the most important thing we can do as parents. Being open and honest and arming them with information gives them the best chance to make good choices about sex. I hadn’t realized that teaching consent at such as young age would be so important. It definitely is. My daughter needs to understand now how important her body is, and this will only help her grow into a confident woman who can stand up for herself.

How I feel, being a de-converted parent

How I feel being a de-converted parent, via Reddit.

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