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.

 

Summertime, baby, yeah!

Just a quick update. I was counting down the days until I didn’t have to wake the girls every morning, get them fed and dressed, and trudge to school in my PJ’s (and sans bra) to get them to school on time. Three days into summer vacation, they were fighting like cats and dogs. It. Was. Insane. I had to play the referee and it was getting old. They’re calming down now, with the novelty of being home together all day wearing off.

I’m enjoying having them home, even though I still have to get work done during the day. But I have fun things planned if this crazy tornado weather would ever give us a break. A new children’s museum opened up nearby, and I’d love to take them there to see what it’s all about. We got a zoo membership, so science activities are well covered. And a favorited family member is officially moving to town today, which includes two cousins/playmates for the kiddos. Super fun.

Anyway, not much is happening in the way of excitement. With school being over, we’re now able to choose who we spend our time with and what people we’re around. It’s been nice to get a break from the religious zealots that dominate our small community and school.

Anyway, if updates are few and far between over the next few months, rest assured I’m spending some quality time with my little freethinkers. I’m immersing them in fun activities, scientific exploration, and some general everyday couch snuggling. :) Happy summer!

We are ok!

If you’re wondering, the recent tornado outbreak that occurred in Oklahoma completely missed my area. Our family and our loved ones are fine. Others, however, were not so fortunate. The devastation is terrible. There are still several children missing.

It’s always hard for atheists in Oklahoma to be a part of social media during times of crisis. Everyone is praying, but I’m not. I’m taking action – donating, doing. Please, if you can help, donate to Atheists Giving Aid’s Oklahoma relief effort. It’s difficult to live here sometimes, but I still love this state. Let’s take action!

Go check out this post about an outspoken atheist child…

This is such a great post over on the Friendly Atheist blog about raising a polite but confident atheist child. Check it out here!

Not my normal post style, but I wanted to share. :)

It’s been a rough couple of weeks, but it’s getting better.

I have a good life. I really do. But I have internal struggles that make everyday life hard to cope with sometimes. I battle depression, anxiety, a borderline eating disorder, three major physical health issues, and weight troubles. I battled many of the same things as a (religious) teenager. I once used prayer as a way to let my problems go. I’d “give them to god,” as many Christians say. I’d push them away, deep down, trying to forget them and refusing to deal with them in a productive way.

They’d fester. They’d boil. Then the lid would explode off the pot. My dad and I would scream at each other. I’d rebel. Then came the guilt. So I’d rock back and forth on my bedroom floor, sobbing and begging for god’s forgiveness for my terrible behavior. I’d write in my journal that I was lonely. I’d write that I felt unloved. Wasn’t god supposed to love me? Weren’t all my prayers supposedly being heard by him so he could bring me up from my sadness? Still I prayed, being told by friends and family that god is in control and has a plan for my life.

I never learned to deal with stress. I packed it away, deep down, until it exploded out of me. I know I can’t do that anymore. I know I have to let it out. I have to deal with things responsibly. I have to take care of myself.

Writing this blog and getting my thoughts out of my head and into a sort of physical place (at least they can be seen) really helps. I try to stay on topic, but sometimes I just need to vent. This week is one of those weeks.

I feel frustrated. I feel worthless. I feel like a failure because I can’t seem to lose weight. I need to do this for my family. I need to do this for my overall health. But nothing works, and I’m afraid of failing again.

I was taught to be “broken” before god. To let him fix me. I no longer want to be broken. I would like to take control of my own life instead of pretending that some outside force is going to make it better. I want my girls to grow up with healthy self-esteem and I want them to see me as strong, healthy, and capable.

Things are better this week. I made it to the gym and got a good workout in. I have a big craft show coming up this weekend, which will unload a lot of stress when it’s over. Thanks for letting me vent. Thank you for your letters of kindness and support. Don’t forget – I always write back, so be sure to check your junk folders!

When I’m Gone

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.

I Always Write Back…

As I’ve mentioned before, I get at least one email a week through this blog, usually from people thanking me for writing it, but also from people seeking advice. I want you to know that I respond to every email I get, so if you haven’t seen a response from me, check your spam folder. It’s very important to me to stay in touch with my readers, so please know that I make every effort to respond as quickly as I can to all emails.

Also, I’m working on some guest posts for a couple of different parenting blogs, so keep an eye out for the details on those!

Thanks, I appreciate every single one of you more than you know!

B

Facebook Pages I Follow

If you have a lot of religious friends on Facebook, chances are your feed is getting thinner and thinner as you either hide their feeds or delete them. I love Facebook, however, and refuse to stop using it to keep in touch with family and friends. However, it can also be a great source for the goings on of the atheist and freethinker community. To keep up with the latest news, I follow several pages. Some I follow just for fun. Here are my favorites. If you visit any of them, let them know I sent you! I don’t get anything for it, but I’d love to get the word out about my blog!

Atheism Resource

The Atheist Parent’s Place

The Atheist Gaming Network (I’m a huge gamer!)

We are Atheism

American Humanist Association

The Ostracized Atheist Project

Freethinkers, Atheists, Skeptics, and Agnostics

Human Rights Campaign

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.

Freethinkers and Education

I’ve mentioned before that education was not important to my family. In fact, only one other family member has any kind of degree and she was in her 50’s when she went back to school. I am a first generation college graduate and this is a source of pride for me. My husband was in school when we met, and he encouraged me to go back to school to finish my degree. I was skeptical that I’d be able to do it with two kids and a graphic design business, but I found a degree plan at the University of Oklahoma that worked for me and stuck with it. Almost all of my undergraduate degree was online, and the last two years were 100% online through OU’s College of Liberal Studies.

You may think you don’t have time to get it done. You may think you don’t have what it takes, but getting a degree and doing it online was one of the best decisions I ever made. Please don’t think you can’t do it. I managed to use the Pell Grant and subsidized loans to make it out of school with relatively little debt. You can do it too. It’s worth it.

I know this sounds odd, but as a Christian, I thought god would solve all my problems. I thought he “called” me to be a singer, so I deluded myself into thinking I could make a living that way. Some people can, but I never could and should have realized that. I thought I would be in god’s service forever, so I never bothered to better myself for the world. It was a bad thing to be considered worldly, and I wanted to appear godly.

When I deconverted, I realize how important it is to know things about the world. I realized the importance of being able to think critically, to communicate, and to write well (though my proofreading skills might say otherwise!). I’m so glad I learned to value education. Even though a lot of it is just playing the game, that little piece of paper opens up more opportunity for success than pretty much anything else.

I figured, what’s the use in being a freethinker if I don’t know how to think to the best of my ability? So I nurtured this new love for knowledge and now I can’t get enough. I’m going back for my master’s this summer!