TeachThemHowToThink

Hi! I'm JJ (aka Mama JJ). I'm a secular parent, an atheist and a feminist. I'm fiercely pro-choice and about as far left as you can get on the Liberal to Conservative scale. If you hang out with me you'll get thoughts on all of these subjects and occasionally excerpts from conversations with my 9-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. I tag all of the conversations with "heard today" (links up above) and all the parenting stuff gets tagged with "Secular Parenting." My URL comes from the phrase "Teach children how to think, not what to think" which is my parenting philosophy in a nutshell. If you have a question, my inbox is always open and anon is usually on. Welcome!
Posts tagged "heard today"

So you know that tumblr post about makeup that says something like “and at that moment I realized men do not understand what makeup looks like” and then the comment under it says something like “guys don’t even know the difference between mascara and eyeliner”

I can’t find it right now, but I know it crossed my dash at least 5 or 6 times.

ANYWAY.  I almost never wear any makeup, but I put some on today for fun and asked my husband, “do you like my eyeliner?”

He stared at my face for a few seconds then said, “I’m sorry, but what’s eyeliner?”

"Liner.  For your eye.  The black line right above my mascara."

He stared again.  ”…. mascara?  Are you wearing any?  Isn’t that the stuff that goes up here?”  He pointed vaguely up by his eyebrow.  

Holy shit.  Tumblr was right!

"You seriously don’t know?"

"Should I?"

"I guess not… but it makes me angry that you don’t and I do.  That I was socialized to think I need it and you weren’t."

"Well you obviously don’t need any eye mascara or whatever, but if you like it, I like it.”  He kissed my forehead.  ”You’re beautiful.  Eye gunk or not.”

"Very smooth."  

Whenever my 4-year-old daughter sees a picture of me when I was younger, she always asks, “Was I still an egg inside you then?”

"Yes, you and your brother were both eggs."

"And there were lots of other eggs too, right?"

"Thousands."

"But you picked me?"

"Women usually release one egg a month and the month you were ready to be released, your daddy and I decided ‘Yup, we are ready to be parents again! Let’s try for that one!’ I didn’t know you were going to be so great, though. We picked a very good egg."

"The best egg?"

"You know, I think so! You and your brother were the best eggs."

*Daughter nods knowingly.*

*I turn to look the window and discover my daughter is standing a few feet away, staring intently at me.*

Me: Hi! What are you doing? Why are you staring at me?

Her: Because.

Me: Because why?

Her: Because I like your nose.

Me: Oh! I like your nose, too.

Her: I know. You told me.

Me: Mutual nose admiration? We like each other’s noses?

Her: We like each other’s faces!

"Oh, Mama! Look!" My 4-year-old daughter rushed over to the corner of the garden nursery and pointed up at shelves lined with little stone statues.

"I see them. Which is your favorite?"

"Do you like the baby angel statues?" the woman standing near us asked. "Look at this one with a little harp!"

My daughter examined it closely. “Yeah, I like those weeping angel statues.”

"Weeping? That’s a big word for such a little girl! But I don’t see a weeping statue…where is it?" the lady glanced around, confused.

"Weeping angels come to life and kill you when you’re not looking," my daughter sweetly informed her, "I like those kind."

//Heads up for another long ramble/rant.  Sorry.  I’m in one of my moods.

A few weekends ago my son and his cousin (we’ll call her T.) decided to have a sleepover.  On the drive to our house, we passed a semi in a ditch surrounded by numerous police cars and a tow truck.  The conversation turned toward distracted driving and drunk driving and I gave my bi-monthly speech:

"We have no idea what caused that accident, but don’t forget it only takes a second to lose control of a vehicle.  Never ever EVER text or play with your phone while driving.  Got it?"

"Yeah, yeah.  I got it," my son said.

"And never ever EVER drive a car after you’ve had alcohol and never ever EVER get into a car with someone that has been drinking."

"I know, Mom."

"EVER.  NEVER EVER."

My son has heard this speech at least fifty times since we’ve been discussing it since he was about a year old, but apparently it was entirely new information to his cousin.  She had tons of questions - what “distracted driving” meant, how much alcohol gets you drunk, what being drunk means, how does alcohol affect your brain, how do you know when someone is drunk, etc., etc., etc.

I answered all her questions as thoroughly as I could while my son looked on and occasionally jumped in with information he knew from previous conversations we’ve had about the subject.

"And if I ever drink and don’t have a ride home, I’m always supposed to call you, right, Mom?"

"Right.  If you don’t have a safe way to get home, Always Always ALWAYS call me.  Even if it’s 2:00 in the morning.  Do not EVER drive home after you’ve been drinking and do not EVER let a friend drive home if he or she has been drinking.  Call me.  I will come get you."

My son sat back in his seat, nodding, while T. leaned forward.  ”Do you think that’s what I’m supposed to do, too?”

"I’ll call your mom when we get back to the house to be sure (I don’t want to call her while we’re driving - that would be distracted driving), but I’m almost certain she will agree.  You should definitely talk to her about it though, okay?"

(Side note - her mom agreed and was thrilled we had talked about this “difficult” topic together since she hadn’t covered it yet.)

So, this was a super long preface to get to what I actually wanted to write about: Priorities in Parenting.

After I had this conversation with the kiddos, I got to thinking about what I deem Important Information.  We have three large plaques in our house above the fireplace that say Be Bold, Be Brave and Be Kind (there’s a picture here, if you want to see them).  These are the values I want to impress on my kids.  Be Bold - be determined, resilient, adventurous.  Be Brave - be confident, think outside the box, challenge authority.  Be Kind - to yourself, emotionally and physically, and to others.  Pretty straightforward stuff.

Since these are my goals, I try to make sure my actions and words and lessons and the experiences I create for my kids reflect these goals.  Kids are little sponges - they soak up every single thing you say and do.  Teach them something when they are tiny, add reminders and more information when they get older, and they’ll remember it (usually).

You know who knows this better than anyone else?  Religious leaders.

Infant baptism, weekly church services, Sunday School, Wednesday youth groups, Praise and Play preschools, Vacation Bible School, church camps, Children’s Sermon, Bible studies, confirmation.  These things can start when a child is only a few days old.  

Religious parents want to pass on their beliefs to their kids and they’ll do whatever it takes to make sure it happens, even at the expense of all the other information their children could (and should!) be learning.  THIS is what I can’t stop thinking about.  Everything I could have known as a child, but didn’t because my brain was filled with Bible verses.  Everything other children should be learning but aren’t, because they are sitting in a Sunday school singing Jesus Loves Me.  (Have I mentioned I hate that song?  Because I hate that song.)

I keep thinking, WHAT AN INCREDIBLE WASTE OF TIME.

Can kids learn Bible verses AND learn not to drink and drive?  Well yeah, of course.  But it’s fascinating and oh so incredibly frustrating to know that millions of children are being forced by their parents to attend Sunday School each week because… their soul… or something… but many (most?) of these well-meaning parents are neglecting to talk to their kids about LIFE.

Part of my Never Ever Ever Drink And Drive speech is the promise that my son can rely on me.  If he ever makes the decision to drink at a party (and I know he will), I want my voice stuck in his head repeating over and over:  ”Never ever ever.  Never ever ever.  Don’t Drive.  Call Mom.”

Be Bold - take the keys away from your drunk friend.

Be Kind - don’t risk your own life or the lives of your friends or the lives of anyone else on the road.  Make sure you all get home safely.

Be Brave - call your mom, despite what your friends might say.

Pretty sure Sunday School never taught me any of that.  ~JJ

My daughter (while watching Doctor Who): Oh no! Is he gonna die?

Me: No. The show is about him, so he almost never dies.

Her: …because that would be a bad ending. He dies. The show’s over. All done.

Me: Exactly.

Her: He could die in real life though.

Me: He could, yes.

Her: People can’t breath underwater.

Me: True. How did you know that?

Her: Ariel in the book.

Me: The Little Mermaid?

Her: Uh huh. Maybe Ariel could save them. (*Points at the sinking submarine on the tv*)

Me: That would be quite the twist.

Her: ‘cause she’s not real either, so that would work.

Me:

Wait, mermaids aren’t real?

Her: MOM. Of course not.

Me: How do you know?

Her: ‘cause no one has ever seen one. They are just pretend. BUT…..

Me: What?

Her: ….maybe….maybe they are like The Silence and you forget you saw them!

Me: Silence of the Mermaids?

Her: Yeah!

Me: And if people put tally marks on their arms to keep track of them, the marks would just wash off in the water.

Her: People don’t swim with markers.

Me: Oh, right. That would be unrealistic.

My husband:  UGH.  That damn deer is out there again.

Me:  Is it eating the trees?

My husband:  I can’t tell.  Probably.  I’m going to shoot it.

Me:  With what?  A Nerf gun?

My husband:  A whistling Nerf gun.

Me:  Try barking at it.

My husband:  WOOF!  WOOF!  WOOF!

*Deer glances up, then continues eating*

My husband:  It didn’t work.

Me:  I didn’t really think it would.  Try quacking like a duck.

My husband:  You’re hilarious.

Me:  Moo like a cow?

My husband:  No.

My daughter:  MOOO!  MOOOOoooooOOOOOO!

*Deer glances up again, then meanders down the hill away from our trees.*

Me:  Huh.  I guess she’s scarier than you.

My husband:  It was obviously a delayed reaction to my terrifying barking.

Me:  Obviously.

//This will be a little bit ramble-y because I’m tired and it’s been a long day - sorry in advance.  :-)

Okay, so I posted an exchange I heard this afternoon between my daughter, her little cousin and her grandma a minute ago (here), but it relates to something else that happened this evening.

I’ve been wanting to watch more of Doctor Who with the kiddos for awhile now and we finally got around to it tonight with episodes 1 and 2 of season 6 (the Silence episodes).  When we finished, I was a little worried that they were too scary (especially for my little one), but they both were apparently unfazed by it because they started acting parts out and begging to watch more.

I know for a fact that I would have been terrified by those episodes when I was a child.  I tried to get more information out of them - “You weren’t scared at all?”

They both agreed that they were a little scared while watching, but now it was over and they weren’t scared anymore.

"Not at all?" I pressed.

"……. no….??"  They both looked a little bewildered by my questions.

Now, I don’t think my kids are particularly brave and they are certainly not exposed to enough scary films or shows to have become immune (they barely watch tv at all, actually), so I have to wonder if their reactions are simply because they have been taught since birth to identify what’s real and what’s fiction.

My son asked, “Are YOU afraid?  ’cause you know they are just pretend, right?”

I explained to him that, no, I wasn’t afraid, but if I had seen that show when I was young I would have been really scared and I probably would have been scared for days.  So I was a little surprised that they weren’t creeped out even a little bit.

"Well, that’s because you believed in that sort of stuff, right?  Angels and demons and stuff?

"I did."

"The Silence are kinda like demons!  They tell you to do things and they get in your head and you don’t really know if you saw them or not."  He started to laugh.  "You believed in The Silence, Mom!"

Holy shit.

 ~JJ

My daughter’s grandma: A spider!

My daughter: I don’t like spiders.

Grandma: I don’t either. I’m a little afraid of them.

My daughter’s 3-year-old cousin: I’m afraid of dinosaurs.

My daughter: You don’t need to be afraid of dinosaurs! They are all dead! They died-ed millions of years ago when a big asteroid crashed into Earth. That’s called “extinction.”

Cousin: Oh. Then I’m not afraid of dinosaurs.

Scene:  Looking through my 4-year-old daughter’s end of the year packet.

Me:  Oh!  You drew a school bus!

Her:  Yeah!  With vipers!

Me:  You mean wipers?

Her:   No, vipers.

Me:  Windshield wipers?  To clear rain off?

Her:  NO.  Vipers.  The very dangerous snakes.

Me:  Oh!  You’re right then, those are vipers.  ….Why are there vipers on your bus?

Her:  Just ‘cause.

EDITED TO ADD:  Apparently there is also a unicorn on board.  FYI.

Scene:  Driving to school this morning.

My son:  Mom?  Am I black?

Me:  I think your great grandma on your dad’s side was black, so… I guess technically, your ancestry is 1/8 black.  Your dad identifies as Latino though, so if you’re looking for a label Latino fits better.

My son:  So I’m half Latino?

Me:  You are, yes.

My son:  Why do some people think having dark skin is bad?

Me:  Honestly?  Because they’re stupid.

My son:  For real.

Me:  That’s my real answer.  If someone thinks the color of a person’s arm makes them a better or worse person, they’re ignorant.  You can’t trust another word they say, because they have no idea what they’re talking about.  I feel very sorry for people like that and I feel even worse for anyone that has to be around a person like that.

My son:  When white people came to America, why did they kill Native Americans?

Me:  Wow.  You’re asking the tough ones this morning!  I guess my answer is kinda the same.  The people doing the killing were awful and ignorant.  They saw that the Native Americans were living differently from what they were used to and they thought it was wrong.

My son:  Living wrong?  You can’t live wrong.  The opposite of living is dying.  Living wrong means dying and they weren’t dying.

Me:  You are absolutely right.

My son:  It was the WHITE people who were “living wrong.”  THEY were the ones dying and the Native Americans HELPED them.  Why didn’t the white people realize THEY were the ones “living wrong.”  They just traveled the world killing people!

Me:  Which is basically the definition of “living wrong,” isn’t it?

My son:  YES!  If you see someone living a different way, why do they think it’s wrong? Why don’t they think “Hey!  Maybe I’m the one doing it wrong.  Maybe we should try to do things that way.”

Me:  Learn from each other rather than judging each other?

My son:  *sighs and looks out the window*  Yeah.  That would be better.

Me:  Do you mind if I share what you just said on the blog?  The opposite of living is dying?  It was kinda brilliant.

My son:  Doesn’t everyone already know that?  

Me:  Mmm…. I wouldn’t be so sure.  

My son:  Okay, then.  Do any of the people that read have kids?

Me:  A lot do, yeah.

My son:  Tell them they should buy their kids ice cream today.

Me:  Ha!  Okay, deal.

//Parents: Buy your kids some ice cream today.

My son: Whoa! What’s wrong with your face?!

Me: Excuse me?

Him: I don’t mean to be rude, but you look kinda weird.

My daughter: Yeah! Why do you have dirties on your eyes?

Me: I…. I put on mascara today. Clearly that was a mistake.

Him: But…why?

Her: Yeah! Why did you put on scare-a?

Me: Mascara. And no reason really, just trying something different.

Her: Your scare-a WORKS! You look really scary!

The kids found a baby painted turtle in our yard yesterday. They named him Arturo and they were pretty sure he’s from El Salvador.

(How he managed to crawl from El Salvador to Minnesota in the day or so he appears to have been sin huevo, they did not elaborate on.)

They begged to keep him as a pet at first, but after I questioned whether that would be a kind thing to do to a wild animal, they changed their mind and decided to let him continue on his way toward the lake.  They’re both certain he’s now a life-long friend and will be back to visit soon.

Hasta luego, Arturo.

My son:  Mom?  I wish you went to an ancient Greek church when you were little so we could have… what’s this writing called again?

Me:  Embossing.  Embossed lettering.

My son:  So we could have embossed Greek Myths books instead of embossed Bibles.

Me:  Me too.  That would be fantastic.

My son:  Do you think someday there will be books of Bible Myths and kids will read them and laugh that people used to believe that stuff?

Me:  I’m almost certain that will be the case.

My son:  Do you think it will happen before I die?

Me:  Hmm… tough question.  I don’t know of any books like that right now, but there’s nothing stopping someone from writing one.  And lots of people already laugh when they read Bible myths.  But to get to a consensus….  (a consensus means everyone will mostly agree).  I don’t think there will be a consensus that the Bible god is a myth within 100 years.  So I guess my answer is that lots of kids will laugh when they read them, but not all of them.  That will take longer than my life and yours, I think.

My son:  Can 9 year olds write books?

Me:  Of course.

My son:  Could I write a book of Bible myths?

Me:  Absolutely.

My son:  Would you help me?

Me:  I could definitely help you if you needed it.

My son:  Maybe we could call it People Used to Believe This Was True But Now We Know It’s Mostly Just Myths

Me:  That’s a little wordy for a title.

My son:  Bible Myths for Kids?

Me:  Much more concise.  I like it.

My son:  This will be fun!

Me (to my daughter):  Oh my goodness… how did you get so cute?!

My husband:  Obviously she got it from me.

My 4-year-old daughter:  WHAT?!  No I didn’t!  Daddies aren’t CUTE.

My husband:  What do you mean daddies aren’t cute?  You don’t think I’m cute??

My daughter:  Uh… no.  You’re old.