Children and Self Image

An odd thing happened this morning. It’s cold here in Oklahoma, so my daughter put on her large, fluffy coat before school. She talks non-stop, so she was saying several things, then started explaining how she doesn’t like putting her seatbelt on in the car when she’s wearing her big coat. I tell her, “That’s too bad! We have to be safe.” Then she says the strangest thing. “I also don’t like wearing this big coat because I feel fat.”

What the, what!? This child is as skinny as a rail! And she’s 6! I was shocked.

I sat down with her and asked her if someone told her she is fat. She said no. I then explained to her that she is beautiful and perfect, and that her coat is just fluffy so it will keep her warm. I explained that I know it’s uncomfortable to wear, but that it does not affect the way she looks. We continued talking and I realized that more than anything she’s just sick of having to wear it. It’s almost spring and she’s antsy about it. So I directed her to talking about spring and summer activities, how much fun we’ll have playing outside, and how lovely the warm weather will be. In the end, I’m sure she was just referring to how puffy and restricting her coat is, and not to her actual body size. I hope.

It hurt so much to hear her say that. My husband and I have drastically changed our lifestyles this year and we’re careful to not talk about our bodies poorly in front of the kids. I have a terrible self-image that stems from years of people (parents included) telling me I was overweight when I really wasn’t. I also relied on god to get me through things and never really built up my confidence on my own. I do not want her to grow up feeling that way about herself. This must be nipped in the bud. I hope I handled it properly.

She’s really a very confident kid, mostly because we allow her to make her own decisions and lift her up with praise and physical affection often. I hope it’s isolated, and I hope she looks in the mirror and sees a beautiful person on the inside and the outside.

How do you talk to your children about beauty and self-image?

How to Encourage Freethinking in Children

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.

And finally…

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?

So I have ads now…

…and I know they’re not the prettiest, but I really needed to bring in a little income from the time I put into this blog. I hope my readers don’t mind. :) I’m just a little freethinking squirrel trying to get a nut for a rainy day.

On another note, I’d like to mention just awesome the freethinking Internet community is. I’ve gotten so much support from complete strangers and I get a ton of emails from people who are going through the same things I am. We’re all just trying to raise good kids who have open minds and love to learn. I think coming together is the best thing we can do for our lack of belief. Thanks for all your support!

Oklahoma Lawmakers Think Birth Control ‘Poisons’ Women’s Bodies

Let’s just get this out in the open. I am hopping mad over this situation. I flew into a rage on Facebook, where I saw the ThinkProgress article posted. Then I went over to the Tulsa World and read the story of this man, Senator Clark Jolley (R-Edmond), who is “morally against contraception.” Here’s what I have to say to Mr. Jolley – get your religious beliefs out of my government!

His constituent, a “natural family planning consultant and women’s health researcher” (yeah, right), a cardiologist named Dr. Dominic Pedulla, believes that birth control “poisons women” and that women are “worse off with contraception because it suppresses and disables who they are.” What kind of an idiot takes this man seriously? Mr. Jolley, it appears. And nine other people on the Business and Commerce committee. Someone please explain how contraception is related to Business and Commerce!?

Would you like to give Mr. Pedulla a call? Here’s his practice phone number: (405) 947-2228.

So this Mr. Pedulla believes that women are defined by their ability to have children. I have two kids, and I love them very much. I love being a mother and I love everything that comes with it. But motherhood does not define who I am. It is not the only thing that describes me. I certainly don’t feel deprived because I’m no longer having children. Actually, I feel more suppressed and poisoned when businessmen with no regard for science and fact try to make decisions about my body! I wish for just one minute that someone would force these men to do something that takes away their freedom. They have it so easy.

“Studies show that women using contraceptives consider pregnancy more unwanted than wanted, he said.” You’re damn right, Mr. Pedulla! We choose whether or not we want to bear children. We choose to use the available options to plan our families. We choose when, where, and how we have our children. This is our right as women, and you are trying to take it away, and put more power into the hands of large corporations by allowing them to deny coverage. I don’t agree with Catholic organizations denying coverage, but I understand it. Allowing any company to opt out of providing proper care for women and protecting a woman’s right to choose how to plan her family is morally wrong.

The problem is that they’ve lumped abortion in with contraception in this measure, and these are two fundamentally different things. Contraception prevents abortions, and studies have shown this! Denying abortion coverage is one thing, but contraception is a basic female need these days.

I fear for my girls’ future. I fear for their ability to make choices for themselves. We must stand up to these two men, and we must not let this pass. The problem is that I have no experience fighting lawmakers and I have no idea how to go about it. Tips and advice? I really want to be involved in taking this measure down. It’s unacceptable, and it’s time for this to stop. If you have ideas for what can be done, I’d love to hear them!

Republicans, are you listening? As long as you pull crap like this, you will never win me over. Ever. 

Spanking, Private Parts, and Religious Discipline

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 daughter. 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.

Ugh, drama.

 

The Talk

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.

Update:

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!

An Atheist Parent’s Thoughts on Tragedy

Well I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve seen enough anti-atheist status updates on Facebook to last a lifetime. It’s so bad, in fact, that I’ve decided to clean up my friends list a bit and weed out the bigoted, offensive people who are claiming that godlessness is the reason for the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary.

What we really should be discussing is the early detection of mental illness and access to health care, not gun control or religious affiliation. While I do think gun control does need to be discussed, that is not the issue here. The issue here is that a deranged person committed a horrendous act, and no one knew he was that mentally ill. Or if they did, they did not help him get help. But the religious folk I’ve known for years and have tried to stay friends with via social networking have decided to make ill-informed and ignorant remarks about how they think not allowing prayer and religious worship in schools is the cause of school shootings. I’ve had enough, and I publicly and politely asked my friends to refrain from insulting me. Basically they’re saying that because I don’t believe in their god (or any god), I am capable of murder. They are saying that I’m evil…yes, one “friend” actually said I’m evil.

And Christians wonder why we get so angry! They wonder why we see religion as harmful. It’s harmful because it excludes. I’ve never told my Christian friends that they’re stupid or ignorant for believing what they do. I’ve never tried to convert them to my way of thinking. I’ve never told them they don’t matter to me because they believe differently from me. Christians, this is why we’re angry. You are so blinded in your faith that you fail to see that other people do not, and will not ever, believe they way you do. You fail to understand that we are still people, and good ones. We love, we give, and we help. But because we don’t believe mythology is reality, you call us evil sinners and say we are going to burn in hell.

These tragedies are only going to drive the two sides farther apart. I didn’t even have time to grieve for the loss of lives because I was too consumed by the hatred and ignorance being spouted by Christians online, but I felt morally obligated to try to combat it. I’m just shocked that people don’t understand the real issue and are so quick to place the blame on something completely unrelated.

Atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers, we have to stand together. We need to do good things as a unit. We must fight for freedom of religion, and the lack of it. We must speak out for reason and logic. I am tired of being quiet. The world needs good examples of freethinkers doing good things and making a difference in the world, and I will no longer stay silent, even if it means losing friends.

December 2012 Update

Hi everyone! So first of all, I’m sorry for the lack of posts. I graduate from the University of Oklahoma in less than 2 weeks and I had to write a capstone paper, so yeah, it’s been a little crazy.

Secondly, I looked at my analytics this morning and realized my readership has grown significantly! I’m getting about 900 visitors a month, with more than half of those being unique. Thank you all so, so much for reading. I know there aren’t a great many resources out there for non-religious parents specifically. I urge you to consider purchasing Dale McGowan’s book, Raising Freethinkers (with which I am not affiliated), as well as Parenting Beyond Belief. They are both excellent resources. Those are my Amazon affiliate links, and clicking them to purchase helps support this blog, so thank you!

I have big plans for this blog and really hope to do great things with it once I’m finished with school. I can’t believe I’m almost there! It feels like a lifetime has been wasted without education, but no more!

So thanks again, and I will most definitely try to keep up with comments and posts until school is out.

Awkward Moments for Non-Believers

I’ve told you before about my daughter’s best friend and her very religious mother and the incident that happened at a sleepover. Well the girls ended up on the same soccer team this year and the mother and I had a chat at the end-of-season party. She asked me directly what faith my husband and I are, and I told her directly that we do not believe in gods. This surprised her, and she asked what led me to decide I no longer believe. She knows a bit of my history of growing up Southern Baptist, so this was shocking to her.

I explained my story of finding the truth. A few moments later, our girls ran up to us exclaiming that my daughter had gotten a bump on the head and her friend had prayed for her, resulting in my daughter’s head feeling better. I held my tongue, though we’ve explained to our daughter before that praying does not help anything. The mother then said, “[Daughter], why don’t you pray for [my daughter]’s Mom?”

Ok, no. What am I supposed to say to that? “No, little girl, don’t pray for me.” This happened right in front of my child. I chose to keep quiet, and then later explained to my child that mommy and daddy don’t believe in praying to solve problems. It was awkward, embarrassing, and uncalled for.

This is what we’re up against. *sigh*

The Election and the Church

It’s time for me to weigh in on the 2012 Presidential Election. Are you sick of hearing about it yet? I am, but only to a degree. Several well-written blog posts have popped up that discuss the churches’ role politics. One of the more interesting ones appeared on my Facebook feed this morning. It’s a Christian blogger, but you may want to head on over and read it. Then come back. Promise you will! I’ll wait. It opens in a new window. Also, you don’t have to read all the Jesus stuff at the bottom. I’m talking about her sections on the various groups of people. I know it’s hard for atheists and agnostics to read about Jesus stuff.

Grieving and Hope After the Election

What do you think about this post? Her statistics are the same ones I remember learning in my social issues class last spring. I believe she’s right. The church has been on a power trip and has aimed to oppress these groups, perhaps without even realizing it. The things she talks about in this post are the things that are driving people away from the church. I personally don’t think much will change. I think the right will go more right while the left goes more left.

One thing is for sure, though – as long as long as Republicans keep aligning themselves with religious extremists, they will continue to lose supporters. I was hoping for a Republican candidate that had good ideas and well-rounded values. Instead, I got Nutty McNutjob and Liar VanLiarson. I’m not given to calling names, but those sounded fun. :)

All that being said, I think Jen’s blog post is a good one and that all Christians should read it. I think it’s time for the church to wake up to the reality of the harm they’re doing. It may not happen across the board, but if even a few Christians can be a voice for reason and love in their churches, then maybe it will get better. Not that I’m advocating that the church needs to gain members. I’d love to see them lose people in droves. But there will always been people who stay, and families who stay. Maybe those people can learn to treat people with respect.

One more thought that I want to share publicly: I am so sorry for ever trying to force my beliefs upon someone. I was terrible to people. I chastised innocent people for listening to rock music, for saying curse words, and for watching pro wrestling. I was a terrible person, and I’m sorry.