Chickadee was quieter than usual Monday afternoon, but it wasn’t until dinner time until I found out that another little girl in her class “can’t be friends anymore” because Chickadee isn’t a Christian.
Le sigh. I knew this day would come eventually. But 2nd grade? Really?
What kind of asshole parent has their 8 year old so indoctrinated that they won’t play with kids that don’t do religion with Jesus? Totally not WWJD, the hypocrites. Can’t blame the little girl though, its the parents–what a smallness of spirit and an insecurity of the heart they must have.
Chickadee said the little girl asked her if she “could just pretend (to be Christian” to which Chickadee responded with “If I have to pretend to be something I’m not for you to be my friend, then you really aren’t my friend.” When I asked what about it (being sad), she said, “Yes, but Mo-om, I have to follow my Jiminy Cricket” (meaning her conscience).
As a parent, I’m elated that my child is independent enough to stand up for herself…and I’m just a little bit heartbroken that not only is she losing a friend over this, but that a parent would put their child in a position to have to give up a friend because they are different. That’s not how we have raised our children (but I can’t take all the credit–Chickadee is the kind of kid that takes on learning sign language in order to make friends with a little girl with a cochlear implant). I can’t even fathom parenting that would seek to separate children from making friends on the basis of being different–what makes us beautiful is what makes us different. And luckily that is not how most of her friends have been raised, since we are fortunate enough to live in a fairly diverse community (for the South).
But still. This rankles. And since I was concerned that this could become a problem for the rest of the school year, I spoke with her teacher after school on Tuesday to (as I put it to my mom) “to inform her of the situation, in case it became a problem”.
I think her teacher was more upset than I was. As far as her teacher is concerned, not wanting to be someone’s friend because they belong to a different religion is “no different than choosing not to be someone’s friend because of their skin color” (and patently unacceptable in her classroom). And, as far as the school is concerned, religion is something you talk about at home, not with your classmates.* Chickadee informed me after school today that her class “got talked to” about those two concepts….
One of the challenges of Pagan parenting (or any parenting that isn’t in line with social norms) is helping foster the sort of confidence that lets a child stand up to their peers while maintaining an integrity to themselves (a second challenge was keeping Daddy from going nuclear over the threat to his precious pixie punk princess).
I can only hope that in the years to come she retains this ability–she is going to need it on many more fronts than this one.
*This is an approach that I understand, and can appreciate, if only because I can respect that it is easier (with all of the other crap schools and teachers have to deal with) to just not encourage it. Although, I strongly think that schools should teach about world religions as a matter of fact, as part of world cultures, geography, history, and literature (the key words being teach , about, and fact)…something which is actually quite legal when done well , even in a public school setting. Religious literacy is a crucial piece of cultural literacy and failing to teach about the basic facts of religions is a failing of our society. With that having been said, I’m fairly sure that many US students would be failed (and I don’t mean in terms of grades) if if their schools did teach world religions (and I’m pretty sure this is a vicious cycle of ignorance).
I have an unusual request. I am counting on you, gentlereader of the great wide interwebz, to fulfill it. All you need to do a good deed is the internet, a camera (or camera phone), and a vacuum. It is easy, and painless, its simple, and it will make you awesome.
Let me back up a bit (I can imagine you now, scratching your head in befuddlement–I know I would be). I have a friend (yes, really, I actually have a friend or two) from my time in the Navy (she’s pretty awesome), and my friend has an autistic nephew who loves vacuums. Adores them. Watches vacuum cleaner infomercials like they are Saturday comics, and loves pictures of vacuums.
I don’t know a whole lot about autism, but I am becoming quite familiar with OCD (off topic, but Sharkbait’s ADHD diagnosis was expanded a bit at his last appointment)…so I’m starting to understand the nature of fixations. From what little I do know about autism, his fascination with vacuums is a Big Deal. Fixations like this can be a sort of…anchor in times of stress and change. They act as a way to relax, a gateway to clear thinking. And, many autistic persons have been able to make careers out of their fixations (people like Temple Grandin), with the help of parents and teachers. (more info)
So here’s the deal. Its hard to just find unique pictures of vacuums. There are only so many sales advertisements for Dyson in the paper or the mail! We need you to take a picture of your vacuum, be it Hoover or Eureka, Shark or Roomba, even a Swiffer Sweeper and e-mail your vacuum picture* to firstname.lastname@example.org**. Then, give yourself a pat on the back for being awesome and knowing that you helped a random family over the internet, for no reason other than your own compassion. For extra karma cookies (and two pats on the back), reblog this or share it with your friends.***
Edited to add: Please try to include the make and model in your e-mail. I don’t know if how much that matters, but I know I have some readers that are outside of the US, and that often there are different brands and models available there.
*I think that you, fabulous readers, are indeed awesome enough that this is unnecessary, but…Please remember that these pictures are ultimately for a 7 year old boy. Don’t send anything untoward. Keep it G-rated.
**Rather than send all these pictures to me directly (as noted in the image above), for me to forward when I have the time to do it (regular readers know I can get behind schedule), I’ve set up an email address that they can use to check without having to wait on me (unfortunately, I’m having problems making it a link). And yes, I have their permission to ask this on my blog (without including their personal information). Also, I personally vouch that this is a Real Thing, and not just some random internet appeal (unless you aren’t one of my regular readers, in which this is both a Real Thing AND a random internet appeal, lol).
***To be honest, even if you don’t have a camera or a camera on your phone or whatever (or perhaps you don’t have a vacuum) sharing this will find others that do, so please, please, please share or repost!
Some random thoughts and rants I’ve had lately about parenting and ADHD…
(sometimes I think I should be making these stock answers when the subject of my child’s ADHD comes up)
Please stop telling me I should try changing what my kid eats: My child acts no differently (and I mean absolutely NO differently) when he has sugar, dyes (though this is something we have very little of anyhow), preservatives, milk, wheat (gluten), eggs, peanuts, or any other trigger foods than when he has not had them for any length of time. If you tried an elimination diet for your child, and it worked “miracles”, congrats. I am very happy that it worked for you.
I’ve read plenty of data (here’s an interesting meta-study) on the topic. To be honest, its spotty (and often poorly carried out, or a perfect example of correlation vs causation), and much of it suggests is that elimination diets help those children that have food allergies and/or sensitivities in addition to ADHD. We tried it anyhow–been there, done that, and it didn’t work for us (actually since Sharkbait is a picky eater (like many ADHD kids) and he ended up hungry and cranky–about 10 times worse, behaviorally).
Medication is not a last resort: Very often, I see or hear someone say something along the lines of “medication should be a last resort”. Sometimes its prefaced by an idea that ADHD isn’t “real” or ADHD is “over-diagnosed” or ADHD is a “natural variation that we shouldn’t be trying to change”* or ADHD can be “cured by (enter natural remedy of the hour)”. But either way, about 3/4 of the time, someone, in a conversation about parenting a child with ADHD (whether or not the conversation is actually between people actually parenting kids with ADHD or not) will say “medication should be a last resort”. I used to be guilty of this.
And now, having made medication the last resort, I wish we hadn’t. We spend a very hard, long year and a half doing everything else, and if we had been more open minded about medication, we could have saved a lot of stress, heartache and struggle for all of us, individually, and as a family. I’ve seen lots of people site bad experiences with medicating, but its has been my observation that “problem” often arise from any number of problems that aren’t generally the medication itself (for example, if a child is “a zombie”, its probably the medication, its the over-medication or the wrong medication that is the problem, or it might be the problem of allergies or a sleep disorder instead or or in addition to ADHD…and if a child isn’t helped, it doesn’t necessary mean that medication doesn’t work, but that a particular medication or dosage isn’t right).
Medication isn’t some sort of magic bullet either. You need a good doctor (preferably a specialist) that knows the latest information and is willing to help the find the right complimentary therapies and right dosing for their child. It can take time and trial and error to find the right medication and dosage. For many children, meds take the edge off, and make it easier to learn the executive function skills that come easily and naturally to the rest of us (which is why studies with meds and therapy show better results than just meds or just therapy). Overwhelmingly, studies show that proper medication in conjunction with behavioral therapy is the most successful way to teach kids with ADHD to cope with the differences in their brain and the demands of the environment that they live in.
With that all of that being said, I don’t think someone should automatically rush to medicate either. I think the decision to medicate or not should be made carefully with the assistance of everyone involved (from kid to doc), in conjunction with behavioral therapy, plenty of outdoor and active time, and with whatever other assistance the child might need. Medication takes as much time and tracking and adjustment as keeping a food journal for an elimination diet does…but it works for most kids with ADHD (when it is done well). But really, I don’t think my decision to give my child medication to help him learn to manage his behavior more effectively (or not) is anyone’s business but mine, my doctor’s my child’s and my spouse’s.
But. Whether you choose to give your child meds or not, the whole “medication as a last resort” phrasing can do more harm that good: This idea can create a mentality towards those families that have chosen to medicate that medication is unnecessary. It burdens the parent(s) and child(ren) in those families with the judgement that using medication equals failure. It comes off as not being good enough–either as a parent (in terms of parenting skills) or as a child (for not “trying” hard enough or having enough “willpower”.
I say this, not to blame or same, but because my brother, who has ADHD, told me, when I used that phrase in a convo with my mom about my son, that he found it hurtful, and that it felt like I was saying he wasn’t trying hard enough because he found medication helpful (he now self-medicates with coffee rather than the non-stimulant medication he was on before). I was pretty well floored, because I’d never looked at it that way…and, I’m pretty sure, that no one here has intended that meaning either, so I wanted to point it out.
And while I’m at it, on the subject of food and medicine and ADHD…if giving your kid coffee or another caffeinated beverage works (and it often does, I know more than one person with ADHD that effectively self-medicates with caffeine), I’m very happy for you too. But please, PLEASE, PLEASE, don’t go around saying that you aren’t medicating your child. Caffeine is a drug. In fact, caffeine is a highly addictive and habit forming drug. In fact, I am married to a (wonderful) man that is addicted to both caffeine and nicotine because he got in the habit of self-medicating his ADHD, rather than taking medication properly and (before it was the thing to do) getting behavioral therapy to learn to manage his ADHD behaviors.
*I have only one thing to say about this idea…I get it, I really do. I even agree with it to an extent. I fully believe that ADHD is a natural variation of the brain, and that having ADHD (despite its name) isn’t a “disorder” (in a negative sense) per se, nor a “disability”–that its just a difference. Unfortunately, our society is not built in a way that appreciates individuals with profound ADHD and no coping and social skills. And, rather than ignore that fact, I feel that it is my job to help my child deal with society as it is, rather than hope that society will adjust to his individuality. Because really, its far more likely that a person unable to adjust to societal expectations in a healthy way will get crushed than not.
For some parents, this might seem like an anathema. For some people, this might seem like I’m giving in to the man or the process or whatever and stifling my child’s creativity or individuality or whatever. If this is your opinion, you are welcome to it, I just happen to disagree…until society changes (which neither happens overnight or with one person), my job is to teach my kids to play the hand they’ve been dealt with WHILE they seek to further the change that they believe in.
All of existence, at some level, is part of a sacredness of the cycle of creation and destruction. The very act of be-ing is sacred. The body is sacred, sex is sacred, joy, pain, anger, hope…the earth, the land, the sea, the sky…each other.
We are sacred. Children of the gods, of the Divine, of the Earth, or of the Universe…whatever you want to call us.
The Hubby and I don’t believe in The Sex Talk. We believe in talking to our kids about sex (and gender and sexuality), we just think it should be a life-long conversation. We think its so important, that we took the time to discuss these ideas while the kids were still in the womb, and its been an ongoing conversation behind the scenes too. It seems odd to me that we (as a culture) would leave this sort of topic to just a talk…we wouldn’t teach children to read in a single lesson, we shouldn’t teach them about their bodies and their hearts that way either.
(better than nothing, I suppose)
I suppose it is better than leaving them in the dark completely, or worse, that its deviant or evil or unclean. I’ve met those people, in my official capacity when I was a corpsman in the Navy and unofficially when I overheard a conversation in the hallway at college or the mall…people who didn’t know how they got an STD, or why their behavior was risky…people that had never been taught to use a condom properly, or taught how to get a partner to use one, or taught about how their body actually worked, or how their partner’s body actually worked. And that scares me…ignorance is how diseases spread, it is how people get pregnant before they are equipped to handle it, how people end up taking advantage of a drunk partner, and how people end up feeling shamed and guilty when they are raped. It seems just as odd (though understandable) that we would not teach our male children the same thing we teach our female children and our female children the same things we teach our male children–there is a good chance that our children will need that information when they consider their partners later on, and even if they don’t, they might need that information for their own opposite geneder children or friends later on.
In our family, we’ve made the body, including its reproductive capabilities, and healthy relationships, including sexual ones, an ongoing discussion in our family since the kids could talk. Chickadee is six, and so far (because she has expressed an interest), she knows where babies come from, the biological differences between males and females, that some people might be biologically male and feel female on the outside (and vice versa), and the general mechanics of what sex is (Sharkbait is 4, and he just could care less, so he pretty much knows his own anatomy and that his sister doesn’t have it). And guess what?!?The more Chickadee (and eventually Sharkbait) knows, the less impressed she is by any of it, and the more she understands about her own body and how it works (and how it is hers). She also knows that families are all different, that some are two women or two men (her best friend when we visit Grandma has two mommies, as she says), that some are grandparents, or a mom without a dad, or a dad without a mom, etc. Kids are smart, and I don’t think that for most children, it is too much of a stretch to expect that they will put those things together. Personally, I would rather have built the “street credit” with my child before hand.
I was lucky enough to have that kind of upbringing (albeit on a more limited basis that what we envision for our children), my husband was not. Growing up, I would never have wanted to talk about sex with my dad. In fact, at my wedding (after having lived with The Hubby for about six months), my dad (jokingly) said “So……..you’re still a virgin, right?”. My response was “Dad, even when I pop out a grandkid, I’ll still be a virgin just so you don’t have to think about it!” His response was “Thank god, because I’d have no idea what to tell you if you were” followed by an awkward pause and “You are on birth control, right? You will have a better relationship if you wait a couple years.”
Good advice, but still…thank goodness my momma was a nurse and they had decided to put her in charge of my sex ed. Even then, it was entirely about heterosexual sexuality, and mainly in the context of the mechanics of sex for the purpose of preventing pregnancy and STD’s. My mom was a nurse, and I don’t ever remember not knowing about what sex was, even if I didn’t know about the variety of sexual relationships until much later. I vaguely remember this book, called Where Did I Come From (and really, its decent).
(the video is the animated version of the book)
In an open and encouraging family where sex and sexuality is treated as something normal, I’m hoping that we, the parents, are where these conversations start (and where they end up) before (and after) the big wide world has had its chance at misinformation. (I might add that means we actually need to know what we are talking about when we start talking about sex…and that we need to be modeling the tone in a relationship that we would like for our children to experience as well)
I think that it is our responsibility as parents to teach our children the biology of their body and the mechanics of sex and preventing pregnancy and disease. But that isn’t our only responsibility to our children. We also need to make sure that our children know how to use that knowledge, that they are self-aware enough to understand if they are not ready (and when they are), that they value themselves enough to be able to say “NO” under pressure from someone they love. We need to make sure they have enough knowledge to enjoy it (if we are all honest, we all know that it takes some work to get it spectacular) and that they know it is okay to enjoy sex with a consenting (and hopefully committed partner. We need to teach them about masturbation and heterosexuality as part of the norm of human sexuality and not something to be ashamed of. As a Pagan (in a way that I don’t think I would have, were I still Christian, even the liberal and progressive sort of Christianity of my youth) I want my children to know that their bodies are precious, and that they are sacred…and that covering them up (or not) is their choice.
I think this is especially important when it comes to bodily autonomy, which is a problem for all children, male and female, gay and straight. Raising children with fuzzy ideas of bodily autonomy puts themselves and others in very real danger. We live in a culture that has perverted the images of health and beauty, that has glorified rape, that has pigeonholed gender roles, and that shames women for daring to enjoy sex. If we don’t start this conversation now, and lay the foundation for our children to have a healthy attitude towards their own bodies, someone else will teach them to be ashamed of themselves, to live fearful of what others might do to them, and worse, to think they deserve it.
So readers, what about you, what are your own plans with your children (whether you have any yet or not)? OR, what how have you handled this already, for those of you with older kids? Is their an age that you thing it *should* be brought up? Or do you think it should wait until they bring it up? Are their subjects that you think are taboo? How would/did you broach topics like homosexuality, masturbation, fetishes, birth control? How do you handle nudity in your home? How do you handle your teen age daughter wanting a vibrator (a conversation I overheard at the store once)–or son wanting the male equivalent, or either a girl or a boy being open about wanting porn (personally, I thought it was pretty impressive to see that sort of honest and comfortable relationship between a parent and kid at that age)? How do you think your family’s religion and spirituality should inform ideas like body image or sexuality?