Not So “Microblog Monday” – Teaching Consequences Without Fear

I started this blog as a way to connect with like minded parents who might be raising their kids without religion. I know I mostly don’t touch on it. The reason for that is mostly because that aspect of our parenting has very little effect on us or our day or our relationship with our kid. The absence of religious teaching in our parenting, is just that, an absence.

The fact that we don’t include religious teachings into our parenting, doesn’t change how to we parent much. We will instill the concepts of right and wrong; cause and effect; and rewards and consequences.

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We still teach her manners and using please and thank you, not interrupting adults, and using “nice words”. And none of these have to be done with religious upbringing.

I don’t blog about our lack of religious upbringing because it doesn’t effect how our family functions. I still go to work, Kim still stays home with Punky. Punky still has rules and chores. We still sit at the table as a family at dinner time and discuss how our day was. We still dance around the living room or have picnics at the coffee table while watching a movie.

The point of this blog wasn’t to rant and rave about how religious upbringing is bad or the reasons why we don’t do it, but to simply show, that raising your kid without religion, doesn’t change the fundamentals or parenting dynamics. Our way isn’t any better or any worse than those who choose to parent with religion being the focus. It’s just different.

I bring this up, because our family is a lot of different things. But labels don’t define us. A “None” family. A two mom family. A free thinking family. A family of choices. A family of technology. A family of questions. A family who eats fast food. A time out family. A family who has no limit on screen time. A cry it out family. A family with mental illness. A family without labels or boxed in expectations.

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I bring all of this up, because generally when I tell people that we are parenting without religion, the number one question I get is: “How does your daughter learn there are consequences for her actions without the fear of consequences?” And to that I simply say, “Why does there need to be an essence of fear?” I feared my dad growing up. I don’t want my daughter to grow up in a house of fear. I want my daughter to know that she can come to me with anything. Any questions, any problem, any choice. Any reasonable and respectful argument. Anything.

So, to make it about fear … to me, religion is equated with fear. Which is pretty much why I personally don’t want her raised in a religious household. Fear of “the consequences” are scary when you are a kid growing up with religion. Hell is a scary concept. Especially for a kid. Fear of rejection. From a loving God, but if you do wrong things, you are rejected. Unless you are forgiven, which you can ask for forgiveness for everything, so then your ‘sin’ doesn’t matter anymore. So those bad things you did, it’s ok, and you can keep doing them and keep asking for forgiveness.

Where is the consequence or lesson being taught there? The circle is maddening and it is (for me) simply a way to instill control on children at a young age and to keep people in a box. To make sure they do what their told, when they are told, and don’t ask any questions about anything, because it ‘just is’; ‘just have faith’; ‘you don’t believe enough’. All of which, in my mind growing up, equated to “You aren’t good enough if you don’t just believe in what we are telling you is right and true.” “You aren’t a good person if you don’t believe in this, if you question it, you question God and that makes you a terrible person and you are going to Hell. Repent now.” These are not the self esteem boosters I want for my kid.

Morals and ethics are not taught by religious leaders. That’s the job of a parent. Parents teach their children what is right and wrong in the world. What’s dangerous and what’s safe. Parents, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof teach their children what society finds acceptable, what boundaries are in place (laws and social norms) and where those boundaries can be crossed or JUMPED (gender roles, pfft) over.

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As a kid who grew up with a Christian background, I remember a time when my Sunday School teacher told the class, “Be wary of those who don’t believe in God. Those are not friends to keep.” And I raised my hand, I was about 12 or so, and asked, “But how do we spread the word or tell them about God, if we can’t be friends with them? Doesn’t it push them away from God to shun them from our friendship?” The teacher had no answer and didn’t answer it. She simply gave me look that made me instantly realize I shouldn’t question what she says. And I didn’t question again.

That’s the thing with religious teaching. There’s no questions. There’s blind faith. There’s no answers. There’s no thinking for yourself, only believe what’s being told to you or you are doing it wrong and you MAY end up in Hell. Scary shit for a kid, right? I know it was for me.

I refuse to subject my child to that kind of teaching or upbringing. coloringWith that said, I do have people who tell me “She has the right to believe if she wants to.” And to that, they are absolutely correct. She does have that right and I won’t be the one to take it away from her. My hope is that we can do our best to facilitate and foster an environment in which she can ask questions, think for herself, and really come to a conclusion on her own. One way or the other in which she believes, I will support her. I will love her just the same.

However, right now, she’s too little to understand the things being taught and she doesn’t know any better than to simply believe – without question. She doesn’t know she can question. she doesn’t know what questions she should ask. Until she is old enough to understand, facilitate and make those questions heard and thought through, she will not be subject or introduced to things that are religious in nature.

Her cousins are Jewish. We don’t really talk about it, it’s not something that comes up. But if she had questions, I would make a point to sit down with my sister in law and we could discuss what being Jewish means and how that effects Punky’s world view. Her grandparents are all (primarily) Christian. I have no problem with her being exposed to “Gram’s friend Jesus” on a necklace, or telling her that some people believe that their loved ones go to a place in the sky when they die. Some people do in fact believe that and I want her to respect other people’s beliefs and views. But, I also want her to question why people believe that, where that belief comes from and if she does in fact also believe in that.

When she’s old enough to make up her own mind, she will be free to do so. She will be able to explore the possibilities of belief and what that means to her. Growing up with an absence of religion, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have the choice to seek it out and be respected for her own growing belief systems. But I do want her to examine, question, and think about what she believes in. I want her to be able to stand up and confidently say what she believes and be about to articulate it intelligently – not “That’s what the Bible says” or “My Mom told me it is so, so it must be”. As it stands, at this age, she is not able to do that to the extent in which I would like her to.

So instead we teach her about family, about tolerance, about love, and respect. For everyone. And at the core, that’s what religious teachings do too, we just do it without a man in the sky or a guy on a cross, without a fiery damnation or a cycling guilt and forgiveness.

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Why I’m No Longer In A Mom’s Group

In previous posts I mentioned that I had joined a mom’s group and it was good for me, with my anxiety disorder and my fear of new people and places. It was good for Peyton’s social skills and getting her out and about. I really had high hopes for this working out. I slowly began to really come to the conclusion that in the end, I’m not cut out to be “that mom”.

What do I mean by “that mom”?

The mom who judges every little parenting choice of someone else. The mom who knows exactly the right way to parent YOUR child. Somehow, the manual to your kid popped out of her vagina with her kid. Apparently, you missed the memo, you are doing it all wrong. It’s right here in Chapter Six of “Raising Punky 101”. It’s the mom who thinks that if you aren’t parenting your kid the way they do, you are wrong, your kid will be a sociopath. The mom who is so very nice to your face, despite the obvious differences in opinion, but in a public internet forum, bashes your choices in a passive-aggressive way.

I’m not good at being that mom. And, apparently, I’m even worse at dealing with that mom.

You know, it’s not even that these comments are being personally directed at me. A lot of times, it’s just a general statement about one parenting choice or another. The problem is, it’s hurtful and I want so badly to say something, but instead, I hold my tongue. I’m really not the type to bite my tongue for very long. I’m really not very good at it.

It’s not even that these comments were directly solely at me and in some cases at me at all.

When you go out with a group of moms to relax and have a good time, I notice that all the ladies have a glass or two of wine or something related (unless breastfeeding of course). When one mom thinks it’s ok to call another one a “lush”, joking or not, it hurts people’s feelings and embarrasses people. Why say things like that? Because women are the best as making a ‘joke’ out of something they truly feel to soften the blow and not make themselves look bad.

Articles about car seats really bother the shit out of me. But, I don’t really say anything anymore. Not since I was basically told I was a bad mother (in not so many words) because we followed our pediatrician’s recommendations for Punky and turned her front facing when she turned 12 months old. She’s bigger for her age and frankly, she screamed in the car the entire time we were in there while she was rear-facing. I was happy to turn her ’round.

When I explained this as my experience and my opinion (not once mentioning anything about anyone who didn’t do this) I was slapped with a comment about how I should get a different pediatrician. And another mother, an expert in car seat safety, posted a video about what will happen to my daughter in an accident. I’m sure it’s all well meaning, but at the end of the day, hurtful and just another way to make a new mother feel crappy about herself.

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Let’s not take into consideration that I have an anxiety disorder. My eagerness to turn Punky around had more to do with my anxiety than anything else. When she was rear-facing, I couldn’t see her. I’m forgetful. Seriously. I couldn’t stop imagining that I would be one of those moms who left her in the car on a hot day. Even now, front-facing, I imagine my reaction to finding her dead in the back seat because I forgot about her back there for one reason or another. It’s part of my anxiety disorder, I picture these things the entire time we are in the car with Punky in the back seat.

During posts of seemingly support seeking mothers, especially those with small children who won’t sleep, the claws came out all the time. So, a mother posts about how she’s really having a hard time with the lack of sleep and looking for suggestions. The first time I posted that we used the cry it out method and how we did it and why and how it worked for us. The response I got from the mother was this: “With all due respect, crying it out is NOT an option in our home.” Well, excuse me for giving you a suggestion.

The comments continued with things like, “It’s unnatural for a mother to feel fine allowing her child to cry and not do anything.” “I can’t imagine leaving my child in her room alone and scared.”

These comments weren’t specifically directed at me, but I felt the sting. Wow. I’m a shitty mom because I let Punky cry herself to sleep one night. Let’s not take into consideration that both K and I were exhausted and really ready to shake this baby at the time. But excuse me, ladies, you don’t get to worry about your own well-being. Again, we took recommendations from our pediatrician to put her in her own room and let her cry it out. Not only for her health and need to get more sleep, but our sanity.

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Guess what, no one thought to take into consideration that I was sitting outside her door the entire time she was crying, tears streaming down my own face. K had to practically sit on me, because we knew it was best for Punky and best for our relationship and wellbeing. It was the hardest night of my life. Yet, Punky is the best sleeper I have ever met, mothers are astonished that she goes to sleep at 8:30PM and doesn’t wake up until at least 9:30 or 10AM. I get surprised faces when I tell people that she loves taking naps and we rarely have a fight when it is time as she will clearly say “Nap” and head to her room, when she is tired and usually right around the same predictable time.

But, screw me. I shouldn’t have allowed her to cry it out for one time and apparently, I’m unnatural and not a great mother for allowing her to be independant.

Don’t get me started on vaccinations. I will be real honest here. Do I think it’s weird that there are people who don’t vaccinate their kids? Honestly. I do. But, I have never said anything to these mothers. They are making their own choices and they are doing what they feel is right for their religious beliefs or their family or whatever.

So, why is it that I hear one of my good friends was told she was uneducated and ignorant for vaccinating her kid? Seriously? Someone said that. See that’s the case of the comments not being directed at me, but I have a few choice words I could say in response to that hurtful and highly offensive comment. But, I bite my tongue, instead of defend my friend’s choice, defend my choice. Because if she’s uneducated and ignorant for vaccinating her kid, then shit, so am I. Awesome, at this point, I’m really doing a great parenting job according to these moms.

Other things I have felt while in this group:

  • If you are on the computer and not constantly talking to your kid, you are bad mother and doing your kid a disservice. (Let’s forget that my second job is online, that I am actually making money for my family, while on this computer.)

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  • If you aren’t still breastfeeding your child after a year old, you are not supermom. (Let’s not mention that Punky couldn’t latch and I hated pumping because it caused me mastitis and my breasts were constantly on fire or in pain)
  • If you let your child watch TV, you will rot their brain and toddlers just don’t benefit at all by watching anything that is currently on TV. (Never mind the fact that Punky has learned how to speak from conversations with Dora and learned to jump, clap, and wave from the GiggleBellies).2013-06-29 05.09.28
  • You don’t feed your kid organic food? Bad Mom! (Except, jesus, organic food is expensive and we are living paycheck to paycheck. But, then, you use cloth diapers so you don’t have to worry about not having diapers for your kid. Another strike against me, whoops.) Of course, I suppose I could just get on the cloth diaper bandwagon, except we live in an apartment and don’t have a washer and dryer and can’t afford to wash our clothes as often as I would like, let alone shitty diapers. But, then again, I’m sure these moms just think we shouldn’t have a kid until we are financially stable enough to do this very important things that cost more money.

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  • One meetup I proposed to take the kids to the city hall steps to play in the fountains. I posted a picture of Punky, MY DAUGHTER, playing in the fountains. One of the comments I got was “I don’t know if that’s safe for my child.” For real? So, I suggested an activity that I have done with my own child, but it’s not safe for other people’s children. Way to basically say that I’m putting my kid in a dangerous situation and how dare I put yours in the same boat.

The last straw was about the debate on stay at home moms and working moms. All the instances above, I have pretty much not gotten involved, not since the crying it out and car seat instance. Because if I get involved, I’m likely to get banned and I really did like getting to know some of these ladies and we are still friends on Facebook. So, I kept my mouth shut and didn’t say anything.

Then a post about how being a stay at home mom was so much harder than a working mother. Working mothers had it easy because they didn’t have to change diapers and they didn’t have to deal with the constant tantrums and nap fighting and the exhaustion.

Excuse me?

I know how hard it is to be a stay at home mom, I live with one. I also know how hard it is to be a working mother, I am one! Each one of us has a different kind of challenge and hard work in different areas, but the challenges weigh the same. So, while I figured this mom was just trying to get some support for her own challenges, but she took the opportunity to shoot down working mothers in the process.

It brings me to tears every freaking day when I lay her down for her afternoon nap, knowing that I won’t see her again until morning when she wakes up. It is hard to come home for lunch, because she’s awake and when I leave, she thinks she’s coming too. When I shut the door and she can’t come, I can hear her disappointment plain as day in her cry through the door.

To give K a break, she gets to sleep in and I get up early with Punky and take her places before work. Am I exhausted? You bet your ass I am. But, I am helping my partner, the stay at home mom, and I am finding the only time I can get with my kid while I put food in her belly by working and making a life for her.

Whether she did it intentionally or not, I’m not sure. I don’t think she did. However, when someone pointed it out that her comments might be hurtful to working mothers, she got defensive and basically said she didn’t know why her comments could be construed as unfair.

That’s what broke my spirit. If you say things unintentionally that hurt someone’s feelings. How about we just acknowledge that perhaps you hadn’t thought about how things would be perceived.

I promptly left the group. Simply because if I said what I wanted to say on the forum, I’d make ladies cry. So, instead I post it here.

With my anxiety disorder, I take medication damnit, to regulate my mood and my anxiety, this kind of environment doesn’t sit well with me and it makes it very hard for me to function. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I’m certain I suffered from a small case of postpartum after having Punky and I already felt like a shitty mom, I don’t need anyone to help me think that about myself.

None of us need to have that in our lives. We are all mothers, doing the best we can for our kids.

And frankly, children learn from their parents, mothers in particular. Children teach their friends their habits. I’m not interested in bringing Punky into that kind of learning.

So, while I think that the mom’s group was beneficial for making a few great friends, I am not cut out to hold my tongue anymore about unfeeling comments made about other people’s choices and debates and Mommy Wars. I’m just not built to withstand the drama.

Not Repeating The Cycle

People wonder why we don’t drink alcohol. Why there is no alcohol in my house and why we may take a sip or two of a wine cooler once a year. I’m not a prude. I’m not judgemental of those who drink socially. I’m not going to shun you if you have a little drink now and then.

The reason is simple. I don’t want to repeat the cycle of my childhood with my own daughter. I will not subject her to the trauma that I was afforded as a child.  I do my best not to call people out in my blog, because I do know people personally who read it. I have family and friends who know me outside the internet and will likely read it.

However, this time, the straw is broken. I am so fed up I can’t stand it. My little girl is playing happily in the livingroom where I am typing, my partner is asleep. The only way to vent this anger I have about to explode is to write it down. To share it with unsuspected internet followers.

For that, I apologize.

I will never understand why grown people find it FUN to get drunk. To get so wasted they don’t remember what happened. It’s so incredulous to me that grown people think it awesome to teach their teenagers that it’s ok to disrespect people and it’s ok to be violent. Especially when you are drunk, you just don’t know what you are doing, so it’s ok.

I will never understand why these grown people are parents. I suppose I shouldn’t say that, because if the grown people I am talking about were not parents, I would not be here. Yes, I am talking about my own parent. I am the product of alcoholism.

Growing up, I have learned, especially after having my own daughter, that our parents do the best they can. The baby doesn’t come out and hand you a parenting manual with their screaming first cries. Parents do the best they can with what they have. I get that. I give a little leeway for that.

Frankly, though, no child should have to hide under a bed with a pillow over their heads to muffle the sounds of glass breaking and screaming matches in the kitchen. No child should have to watch their parent dragged away in handcuffs – headed off to jail. No child should have to worry where their next meal may be coming from because their parent is too busy locked in another room drinking it up.

So, when people say that my daughter is at a disadvantage because she has two moms, I want to remind those people of my childhood. A child with two straight parents. A mom and a dad. I don’t ever claim that I had a worse childhood than anyone else. I don’t write this for pity. I write this for awareness. I write this to remind parents that their children should come first.

I understand addiction. I do. I was addicted to cigarettes. I am the first person to admit that I smoked throughout my ENTIRE 42 weeks of pregnancy. Demonize me if you must, I deserve it. I am so ashamed of those moments when I lit up a cigarette while my daughter was kicking in my womb. Thank goodness, she’s healthy and had no birth problems. I am still ashamed.

That addiction was a hard habit to kick. I have been smoke free for over a year now, so I know how hard it can be to stop something that has it’s claws in you. I also know how hard it is to make that decision to stop an addiction for the sake of your child. So, I don’t write this from a martyr’s standpoint. I don’t stand here and proclaim perfection.

Parenting is about decisions. It’s about sacrifice. I don’t care if you are a mom and a dad or a mom and a mama or a dad and a papa. It doesn’t matter your family dynamic. Children benefit from love and responsibility. Children benefit from support and encouragement. They benefit from parents who try their best and do what they feel is right.

Society says that children need to have a female and a male influence. I agree that children benefit from seeing gender roles that are set forth by society. I do not agree that they have to be a mom and a dad. I also don’t agree that children have to know the gender roles set up by society so that they can emulate them, because I don’t agree that children have to be what society wants them to be.

I got off on a tangent. What I mean is, children benefit from parents who teach them to love, respect, and encourage. They benefit from parents who show them acceptable ways to behave. They benefit from parents who care enough to put their needs before booze or addiction.

I’m so angry that I am 29 years old, and I am still affected by the parenting I was raised with. I am still crying – still having flashbacks of myself at 12 and 15. Then, just when I think it’s over, just when I think I am over it, something like this happens.

Something that makes me remember why I plan to teach my daughter about love, cause and effect, and learning from our mistakes. So many of the people I know, have never learned from their mistakes. That’s the biggest lesson of all.

I apologize, I am all over the place. My head is not quite here today. I just don’t understand how some people get so far off track. Anyway, thanks for being a sounding board for my rant.