Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Thank you, defenders of my faith

The Book of Mormon Musical has been on Broadway for about a year and half. It's done some touring around the U.S., will have an extended run in Chicago, and also a run in London. The musical has won awards and has been viewed by thousands of people by now.

The existence of the musical bothers me, but of course what's more troubling is that hardly anyone outside of my faith seems to think it's a problem. So, I really appreciate it when there are intelligent articles written in defense of my faith.

Articles like this one, which examines the bipartisan, academic, and historical prejudice against Mormons in America.

And articles like this one, which compares reaction to the "Innocence of Muslims" film and reaction to The Book of Mormon Musical. Only one of these creations was thoroughly condemned by liberal public servants. I'll give you a hint--it wasn't the one about a book I hold sacred.

And I especially love this humorous defense by Stephen Colbert.

I love my faith. I know that Thomas S. Monson is God's prophet on the earth today, and that he witnesses of Jesus Christ. I know that church leadership's decision to essentially ignore The Book of Mormon Musical, like it does with every other mockery of the gospel, was based on revelation from God. I also know the cheeky decision for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to buy ad space in the playbill of The Book of Mormon Musical was also inspired by God.

But whether people believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet when he lived or that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet now, it would just be nice if the LDS church received at least a small degree of the respect that certain other religions seem to enjoy.

Here's a creative piece about the Book of Mormon that's accurate:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thank you, Adrienne Pine

Oh my gosh. Yes. YES!!! There is a woman in this country living the freaking dream. My dream, that is. My dream for America, for mothers, for women's equality. Adrienne Pine, you ROCK! When I read the description of how this woman juggled her baby and her job as a professor, I just thought, this is perfect. This is exactly what women should be able to do ALL THE TIME..

After all, if a woman can breastfeed while acting as an elected official, in the very midst of voting on laws that impact all of Europe, why shouldn't she be able to breastfeed during a college lecture on female anthropology?
 Italy's Member of the European Parliament Licia Ronzulli takes part with her baby in a voting session on the working conditions of women at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, October 20, 2010. REUTERS/Jean-Marc Loos

Oh, and it doesn't have to stop when the babies are little, either.

Adrienne Pine, you absolutely have the right idea. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! Integrating family and professionalism is exactly what the modern world needs.

(And I need to note that my own sister is cool enough to have nursed a baby while speaking at a college lecture as well. YEAH.)

Please, Roald Dahl teachers come-to-life

If you were homeschooled or you plan on homeschooling, I'm sure you know that the #1 most irritating thing that people ever say is, "Well, what about socialization?" as if overcrowded classrooms are the best/only place that a child can learn how to be a human being. I'm sorry, but I have questions that seem a lot more important for people who plan on putting their young children in public schools. "What about a stranger raising your child all day? What about your child being sedentary all day long? What about your child never getting to play outside and connect with nature? What about the rigid learning schedule that your child may or may not follow in those precious, single-digit years? What about..." I could go on and on and on.

I don't hate public schools. I have good friends who are teachers and I know they work hard and they love kids. I am really glad public schools exist, and I personally had amazing experiences with school growing up in Fairfax County--when I started attending school in 5th grade, that is. I just don't think public schools are designed in an acceptable way for children under 10. Not academically, and certainly not socially. I loved the remarks of Quinn Cummings in this recent interview on the Diane Rehm Show:

(Begin quote) "The socialization question is an interesting one. It comes up all the time. I wish to reassure people that socialization in the way that they're thinking about it is not the thing they should be worried about with homeschoolers. You can either take it on an anthropological level, which is human beings have been recognizably so for about 130,000 years. Education in a way that we would recognize in a classroom with a bunch of other students is about 400 years old. Mandatory education is less than 150 years old in the United States. It's an interesting idea, but relative to how long we've existed, it's still beta-testing.

"The way we used to learn how to be human beings was we would be in groups of vaguely related individuals who would have a vested interest in teaching us how to be what we think of as, whatever that group thought of as human. If for no other reason than we'll learn, turn around and start preparing food and going out and doing what needs to do in order to keep the group going. The idea of learning how to be human vertically is the way it's usually been, which is you look above you. You look to your elders to figure out what matters, how to behave, the rules of the road. Learning how to be a human horizontally, which is to say being surrounded by 22 or 26 or 31 peers is a very relative -- it's a very new invention. I'm not saying it doesn't work. I'm just saying that the model that homeschoolers use, in some ways, is a lot more in alignment with the way our brains used to develop and still develop. We are still far more, running around the African veldt than we are running around Madison Avenue. 

"And as far as science goes, every study which has gone to the trouble of looking at homeschoolers and comparing them to the population has come back and said, these kids are, for the most part, fine. They, as adults, they define -- they're more likely to define themselves as very happy than the average population, fun fact, the more likely to vote. The children are engaged. The children are social." (End quote)

Now, when children are learning vertically from related adults and older siblings--who presumably love them the most and have the greatest motivation to teach and help-- that is a beautiful thing. What about when young children are thrown into a situation with older children or peers who bully? What about when children are put in a situation with an adult--a teacher--who is abusive?

Children are taught to listen to adults, with good reason. They're taught that adults know what is best and that adults can be trusted. But not all adults are the same. And very young children can't necessarily tell the difference. You can't count on your child knowing that an adult is doing something bad and wrong. You can't assume that your child will tell you when they're being abused. 

What has brought on all these thoughts? This horrifying article in the NY Times. As I read it, I could not blink. I could not look away. My eyes were held open by the force of my shock. For three months, the abuse of this little girl went on without her parents' knowledge. And it would have gone on longer if Rose hadn't needed to pee while wearing her favorite clothes. I cannot even bring myself to imagine my precious children being treated in such a way. My mind bolts away from the image like a hand from a hot stove. 

Obviously, this kind of punishment is not the norm. Please don't comment with a defense of public schools and teachers. That insults the Lichtenstein Family and discounts everything they've gone through. The point is not that millions of children do just fine and have fine teachers in public school. The point is that Rose is not the only kid being put in a real life Chokey. There aren't like, ten other kids. Or even a hundred other kids. It's estimated that 40,000 other kids are receiving this kind of discipline. And for the foreseeable future, it's going to remain perfectly legal. 

For me, the takeaway is--if you have the possibility of homeschooling your children, it should genuinely be considered. If you don't want to or you can't, then...be careful. Be very, very careful. You just never know who is secretly a Miss Trunchbull. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thanks again, Michelle Obama

This is the first entry ever where I've broken my title format of only the words Please or Thank you paired with any given noun. But, I've already written an entry titled Thank you, Michelle Obama, so I couldn't very well repeat myself!

I love the First Lady. She is young and brilliant and passionate. I love how she has focused on issues that impact people's everyday lives. I love that she is a fellow mother. To be honest, a good portion of my vote for Obama this November will be directed toward Michelle. There is more to life than laws, and I think she is really making progress with some of the issues she's working on.

Her speech at the DNC was beautiful. I believe strongly in the power of stories and specificity when writing...anything. And Michelle's speech was almost entirely specific stories. If you haven't listened to it, then please do.

I prioritized listening to Michelle's words after reading this piece by Kathleen Parker in The Washington Post (which reminded me of this). I completely agree with Kathleen that the most important aspect of the speech was the focus on family. In some ways, Michelle's speech could be viewed as a call to action for men--a call to fatherhood.

Motherhood gets thrown around by politicians and the media all the time. How many different mommy wars have been fought during 2012 alone? Way too many. But it's interesting that there aren't really a lot of "daddy wars." Is it because all dads just do things the same, so there's no point in trying to pit two crowds against each other? Is it because dads are less passionate? I don't think either of those things are true. Maybe it's just because...people aren't thinking much about fathers?

But as Michelle implied and Kathleen concurred, we should be thinking about fathers. About married, stable fathers. What does it mean that 53% of children born to women under thirty years old are born outside of marriage? It means that at least 53% of children born to women in their prime childbearing years don't have an invested, committed father present in their home every single day.

It is not easy for women to do it alone as parents. It is not easy for children to do without a father. It's far, so far from being the optimal situation. But despite the existence of good ole Planned Parenthood and the pill, the number of children born outside of marriage has gradually risen from our societal sea like a volcano.

I think about the smart, capable college-educated guys I know from high school. Most of them are well out of school and have stable, well-paying jobs. But are any of them fathers? Are any of them using their education and their money, their blood, sweat, and tears, to provide for their offspring? Not a one that I can think of. It's their prerogative to do this, but as far as I know, they use their money for alcohol and adventure.  Then they sit all day at their office jobs and get chubby. Poor dears. If only they had a toddler to chase at the park or a 15lb baby to strap to their chest, maybe they'd keep off those extra beer pounds.

Conversely, I do know gals from high school that are moms now. Though a couple of them are married, and a couple of them still live with the father of their children, I know how hard the single moms are working. I know about the hours they keep just so they can spend time with their sweet children. I know about the sacrifices they're making. These are women I am fond of, that I have good memories with. Women that I wish well. Maybe they are perfectly happy with the way things are--I honestly haven't asked, and I don't presume to know how they feel. But I know when you're trying to pay for everything about your life and your children's life on your own, it can be hard just to afford food. But I know how much having Nick here every day means to me, and how dearly our children love him. I know how much I rely on him.

And it seems that Michelle Obama--a well-educated woman with a lucrative career--still relies on her husband in the same ways. That makes me smile.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Please, modern structure

The other day, a friend of mine joked on Facebook, "[Husband] starts work tomorrow, which means I will be ALONE with my [3] kids for the first time in 4 months. I'm scared." 

This friend is a fabulous and involved mom, and I really admire her. I also know what she's talking about. I was completely spoiled this summer, because Nick got to work from home. He was there to help out with Luke when I was exhausted at the end of pregnancy, and he was there, bouncing newborn Renée on the yoga ball while he did legal research. Baby girl was six weeks old before I had to be on my own all day with the kids. 

I've been doing okay, but this piece on attachment parenting over at MamaBirth stirred up some thoughts from the bottom of my mental cocoa mug, particularly this quote: 

"The sad reality is that most modern families don't have 10 adults living in a house together. Most people don't have half a dozen children and grandmas all under one roof. If you do then it is pretty possible for somebody to always go straight to a fussing baby and you can raise a child who never cries for more than a few seconds. But for most mothers the reality is much more lonely (and private) and those gadgets we buy- well they replace grandmother or an older sibling or a mom who simply needs to feed her other children." (emphasis mine)

I think a lot about the traditional structure of human society--the way we evolved. Tribe. Close-knit family communities. Small villages. Marrying somebody local, staying around both of your families for all of your days. Having constant access to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings who are more than happy to lend a hand with children.

As mothers, we're not supposed to be alone with our children all day. And let me tell you, play groups do NOT make up the difference.

I yearn for community. To live in a small town with all my sisters and raise our families together. I've definitely had a taste of it in the past two months. I am at most 2 hours from my parents, my in-laws, the majority of Luke&Renée's aunts and uncles, and my very good friends from home. They have been so kind and so supportive. They have dropped everything to come down and help out for days at a time. I am humbled by their love and service.

But as I said, in our society, this is a luxury. I've been spoiled. The norm is for moms to have to figure everything out by themselves on a daily basis, and to scrounge up community where they can find it. It's sad, really, and it certainly is lonely. Being aware of this makes me prioritize living close to family more than ever before. Maybe it's my faith in evolution cropping up again, but I think community by blood is deeper and more meaningful than community by geographical chance.

In the adult solitude of my day-to-day, I primarily parent in the "attached" style. As I read MamaBirth's thoughts on attachment parenting, I had mixed feelings. I've never liked the name "attachment parenting," and I didn't even know that there was a specific name for the way I was living my life until I was well into mommyhood. I agree with MamaBirth that perfection in AP is unattainable in our modern structure. But I think of various parenting options in a good, better, best way--not a good vs. evil way. For example, in my personal life, I don't think the baby swing is the best choice--I try to wear my baby as much as possible--but it's not evil, and I will use it when I need to.

So no, I don't think in today's world women should try to hold religiously to AP doctrine. But I also don't think that since 100% purist AP is impossible, we should just throw AP out the window. Because what is the alternative to AP? It can be grim and bizarre--like using a little machine to time how long your child has cried alone in the dark when you're "sleep-training." Or an industrial product almost entirely replacing a biological norm. Or the rampant use of the "infant carrier." Parents make a baby sit in the hard plastic seat all of church sometimes. If baby complains, they shove a pacifier in his mouth. Women strap their baby into the carrier just to haul them to and from the mother's lounge. Moms take up their entire shopping cart at the grocery store with this huge, heavy plastic thing for baby to sit in. Why not just slip them into a sling? Seriously.

Without traditional community, it's not easy to achieve all the best choices for children. But we can still have standards, and do whatever we can to live up to them--even if in our modern structure, that means doing it alone.