Sunday, October 4, 2015

Atheist Parenting: Taking About Sex

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If you have kids you already know that sex education does not start when they are teenagers, so let's not kid ourselves. Human beings are sexual beings. You have your own childhood stories, I have mine, and our children will have theirs. Kids are getting an education on sex starting from day one.

Little ones start out exploring everything, including their bodies, with simple curiosity. In past generations that exploration was treated by some with shame, embarrassment, or their own discomfort. These days we know that our own discomfort can be transferred to our children and we work hard and deliberately to be aware of our own issues and to work through them.

Without making assumptions about anyone except for myself, I consider it a healthy, mature, and loving thing to consciously and deliberately address internal issues that keep one bunged up inside. And why? So as to not pass those issues on to our beloved offspring. I did it; it took me years. But I'm grateful to not pass along the stuff that I was carrying, especially about sexuality and sins and sluts.

If I can do it, so can anyone.

Our children and their beautiful bodies will serve them for their entire lives; let's help them to feel healthy and happy being a human being. Being sexual is perfectly normal and healthy. Our culture works so hard to pass along messed up messages about body image, sexuality, genders...let's make our homes a haven of loving acceptance, accurate information, and healthy messages about the sexual part of all of our beings.

Let's Talk to the Kids

I might have this wrong, but it looks to me like this new generation of parents are far more informed and healthy about sexuality than past generations. Loving acceptance of a range of sexuality expression and identity and gender is such a freeing gift to give to this and future generations. I'm delighted when I see the kids coming up these days with such love and understanding. Perhaps my supposed knowledge is unnecessary. 
  • Keep communication open and positive from the earliest days of your child's life about sexuality, sexual feelings, and their bodies. Our children look to us and adopt our tone.
  • Talk about it. The media portrays both males and females in stereotypical and skewed ways. Don't allow these messages to go unchallenged.
  • Smile and let your children know that their choice and identity is lovable and loving and welcome.
  • Think about gender roles and rules and be willing to adjust your assumptions for the good of our children.
Stop the presses. 
This post is sounding like obvious stuff.
You know what? You know what to do:

  • Be loving and genuine.
  • Be genuinely informative at your child's level and interest.
  • Be honest.
  • Be encouraging.
  • Know that sexuality is complex, too complex to have black and white rules governing it. 
  • Discussions of ethical, equal, and compassionate treatment of others is a precursor to all relationship conversation.
  • Human relationships require respect and self-awareness to be at their healthiest.
  • Each relationship is unique.
  • Compassionate conversations during the teen years are possible when conversations are open and warm.
Openness and honesty and transmission of information is vital. As a kid and a teen I got such incorrect information...and absolutely no parental conversation. In this home we will discuss sexuality in the continuum of conversations about interpersonal interaction. Conversations of sex will contain no shame or guilt. Privacy, yes. Hidden and shameful, no.

We have had the conversations that I wish someone could and would have had with me when I needed the information; if I had had these conversations perhaps I would have understood things better. My life path would have been so different. The conversations we have will probably not keep my children virgins; that is not the purpose of our talks. But they will be more confident, safe, and respectful than I was. Fear will not be sole birth control for my kids.  Instead, knowledge will serve.  And condoms and other appropriate interventions. 

Look, I don't want my kids to run out and have sex, but with the knowledge and respect for sex that they now have, I have been very impressed with their way of approaching the subject and with their choices. Not that the conversations are easy at this age, my mind buzzes half of the time, but I'm grateful for their openness, for their strong desire to be ethical people, and for their respect for self and others.

If I can do this, so can you.

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Getting Political: GUNS: Time to Get a Fricking Grip

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Someone somewhere is thinking about their right to carry a weapon. Today I'm thinking about Rebecka Ann Carnes, Lucas Fibel, Lucero Alcaraz, Quinn Glenn Cooper, Treven Tayler Anspach, Jason Dale Johnson, Sarena Dawn Moore, Kim Saltmarch Dietz, and Lawrence Levine.

Chris Mercer had a total of thirteen guns and tons of ammunition found in his Oregon apartment, all purchased legally, much of it online and untraceable. 
  • Have we become numb to the atrocity? 
  • Are we still appalled and shocked when kids are killed in their schools?
  • What are we missing?
  • Who is in charge here?
  • Is the right to bear arms more important than the lives of innocent people?
  • Is that a loss we are willing to bear?
  • A cost we are willing to pay?
  • Are you prepared to have teachers bearing arms in the classroom?
  • What will it take?
If you are reading any news stories today, various news sources are reporting total numbers of mass shootings over the last years; different sources count in differing ways. Wherever you get your statistics, they are absolutely horrifying.

Gun Rights over Gun Control

Across our nation there is an increase in support for gun rights, less discretionary laws in more states, easy access to ammunition. To my sensibilities, this is the opposite of what makes sense. Who here has been convinced that black is white? How many of you have been persuaded to believe that what is up is down?

In our fear we have lost our ability to think logically about this crisis of ideology. Right now there is no possible way to know how many guns are active out there and no possible way to know who is carrying them. There is no possible way to track sales and transfer of guns and no possible way to know who is selling ammunition and to whom.

One point: guns have one purpose.  To shoot. To kill.
Let's not pretend there is any other purpose for them.

Two things every American should know how to use... Neither of which are taught in schools.: I went over to Pinterest and searched for guns and I got the most appalling, detestable set of memes. Images suggesting the we all need to bad ass up and arm ourselves for god, country, family protection, safety, and intruders. One meme is more disgusting than the next. Pride of carry, no plan to hesitate, disposed to shoot first, presumption and conceit, cocky, primed to use them, unlikely to consider peaceful solutions, fearmongering, antigovernment and anti police, appealing to women, romanticizing vigilante-ism.

The next thing you know innumerable guns are spread out in homes around the country and people are equating owning a weapon with being safe.

Gun Control

Are you convinced that only criminals will have guns if we put legislation on weapons? If so then you have been convinced of something completely untrue. I'm not suggesting we remove all guns. How I wish. No, I am a realist. I am suggesting that there be tighter controls over weapon and ammunition acquisition so that the Chris Mercers of the world cannot obtain stockpiles of attack weapons.

I'm not a debater and I'm not the brightest bulb in the barrel.
But I'm certain that something can be done, something obvious. Something perhaps not popular...but necessary. 

My sincerest sympathy to the families who lost beloved people in today's massacre.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Thinking About Homeschooling? Here's the Info You're Looking For

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This blog post is for parents who are considering whether or not to homeschool their kids. I created this series of posts just for you.

If you take the time to read through a few of these posts I do hope you leave a comment or two to let me know if they have been helpful.  Thanks.

Maybe Homeschool is to Blame

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It wasn't long ago I was sitting with someone, out on the deck, enjoying the sun, catching up; we were talking about the kids and how they are doing in all of their activities. College is great: check. Work is great: check. Friendships are great: check. Kids are happy: check. The kids are amazing: check. Stuff, in general is good: check.

I mentioned that my daughter struggles with some minor anxieties, namely an anxiety when it comes to calling people on the telephone. My chatting partner said Hmmmm, do you think it has anything to do with the fact that you homeschooled her?

NO, I didn't blow my stack, but I was very taken aback.

Will we ever get past the stigma of homeschooling, that thing where every single imperfection of my children won't be attributed to homeschooling? Do we sit together, talk about our own imperfections and think Hmmmm, do you think it has anything to do with the fact that we went to public school?

Human beings are imperfect. We have fears and anger and turmoil and struggles and anxiety and down times and conflict and all of that. It's normal. It's noteworthy when these challenging things happen because usually we are fine and dandy and strong and happy and productive.

And now, to give space to the rant that I didn't do that day:
No one, NO ONE has thought about how homeschooling (and every other choice we make in this family) affects my children more than I DO! If I thought that homeschooling was not the right thing to be doing for my children, I wouldn't be doing it! ALSO, anxiety is everywhere in my own family of origin, is it any surprise that this child has a touch of it? And, if she had been in school we would blame the system! ALSO, this is a thinly-veiled criticism directed toward me...from this person.

AHEM......I'm better now.

Homeschooling is bold and dynamic and unique and empowering. Study after study after evidence after proof and still I get this question?  LOL...someone is out of touch...and it isn't me.

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Busy with Love

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What a week. It's just busy, you know?
I remember reading a book years ago that was very critical of the idea of being busy. As though being busy is always mindless and loveless and selfish.

Being a homeschooling family means that there are times when having a busy lifestyle is quite normal, when it is a choice that is made. This week we are choosing the hustle, the engagement. 

John and I took some time off to do something we haven't done in months; we went to a homeschool play group that is nearby. We haven't been to any playgroup activities for a couple of years for so many reasons, the list of our reasons is endless. But today we went to the park and it was glorious! We reconnected with friends we haven't seen in months and we made some new friends too. Our busy schedule is something that we are deeply enjoying for its industriousness, for its energy, and for its sense of purpose. But today we delighted in something truly homeschooly: we ditched it all to play!

Later this week we will be going to a play that Elizabeth is involved in at her college. The show is playing for five days so you know that these last two weeks have been stressful and busy for her. Tech week and intense rehearsals and work and classes and other lessons. She is exhausted and hardworking and earnest. I adore seeing her this dedicated to a show. She glows with her lively activities!

People tend to consider a busy life problematic, unhealthy, even dismal. But we are thriving and growing and engaging: bring it on FALL!

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Eating Cherries or Oysters

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Most of those who make collections 
of verse or epigram 
are like men eating cherries or oysters:
 they choose out the best at first, 
and end by eating all. 

~S├ębastien-Roch Nicolas

I generally have a hideous memory.
I can never remember jokes or names or dates or...quotations. But there are a few quotations that mean something to me, words that have been important to me over the years and that have helped me to get to a healthier place.

One of the very first time I became attached to a quote was in about 1990 or so. I was working as a substance abuse treatment center in the 90's and those places are swimming in catchy quotations. I was working at a psych tech at an alcohol treatment center and I was in attending a meeting. Although I have never been an alcoholic, I sometimes enjoyed the meetings.

I was sitting in the room with a fellow psych tech and I confessed to him that I was not recovering in any way but that I was enjoying the meetings. I told him that I felt kind of weird about that. He simply said to me Don't sweat the small stuff.

Sure, I had heard those words about a thousand times before that moment, but they really hit me. It must have been the right moment for them because Don't sweat the small stuff became my mantra for several years. It reminded me to stop putting the magnifying glass to my life and to just relax.

The only other phrase that ever really hit me was Question Everything. I grew up in a place where non-truths were passed off as truth for many years...actually questioning everything was essential in my life. My sister once painted a really kick ass sweatshirt for me that read Question was my favorite shirt for years. 

Today I don't really have a mantra but I do have a few things that I say fairly often. Things like Do what makes sense, Being kind is usually the right answer, and I'm always on your side. Those three seem to get me by for most things these days. 

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Pope is a Rolling Stone: An Atheist's Perspective

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It has reached mass saturation: 
the pope was here.

Admittedly I don't stay as informed as I could. I'm not a regular news reader/viewer. I used to follow the news very closely but I got ovewhelmed with it, with the zillions of news sources and with the horrible events. But who can have missed the grand news: The Pope is in America!

I'm as skeptical as the rest of you. And as indifferent about the pope's activities and events. When it comes to this new pope people people have been singing his praises and I all I could think was I'm not seeing any protection for the sexually-abused victims of the church leaders
That is unforgivable. 

This pope, this leader of people seems to be a liberal, advanced thinker...and that seems rare in that institution. I do not worship him, I do not praise him. I am merely appreciative that he is moving the Catholic church forward...albeit very belatedly so. 

The Catholics that I know are so appreciative in their new-found freedom to believe in evolution, to be kind to atheists, and to acknowledge global warming, among other things. Why these people require being led is completely beyond me, but if they must be led let it be by a person with science knowledge and humanist values. All along I have been very unwilling to be impressed with this man; even the NPR interview of some American ambassador for the pope left me unmoved. 

My small crack happened a few nights ago when I was talking with a group of friends. One of my friends is Catholic and she was delighted with her landmark freedom to believe in global warming and evolution. My friend was overjoyed at the new latitude of thought offered by this church leader. 

I didn't kill the buzz with my overwhelming disgust with her need for an approving overseer to allow clearer thought. Instead, I was grateful that this church is moving into reality...however slowly, however belatedly.  I'll give a little.

From Facebook just today
The very moment I see priests who have 
sexually-abused children being prosecuted...we'll talk.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Guest Post: Gender Equality is Not the Same as Tumblr Femimism

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Teen boys these days are struggling.
The so-called feminists on 
teen social media
are rightfully taking a stand,
but about an entire group of people
who aren't responsible
for the ills of inequality. This is my teen's thoughts on the matter.

Guest Post: A Post from John

This is a fictional story about a hypothetical situation where injustice is happening; welcome to my mind. In this fake universe I have been confronted by a “Tumblr Feminist” who is complaining about the issues and non-issues of her generation. “It scares me that the men of this generation think it's ok to joke about raping someone," she says staring me down with a carnivorous glare, "me and other women shouldn't have to deal with this.” She proclaims this while pointing to the picture of the sleeping girl edited to have the question “If you walked into your house to see her laying there what would you do?”. The comments filled with a string of comment stating rape is the obvious choice in an obviously joking manner.

“It’s terrifying they shouldn’t be able to do this!” she says almost shouting. “You and your gender have made a general statement that men are rapists,” I state trying to be calm, but clenching my fists, “so no matter what they say they will always be the bad guys”. She doesn’t even pause to think before making her retort. “They shouldn’t be offended by a blanket statement like that, if you said something about people with my hair color or body type I wouldn't be offended!” she proclaims.

Knowing that that is exactly what her version of ‘Feminism’ is just that I think of shouting, but calm myself enough to continue. “Ok then, how come when anyone says that feminist are being rude or sexist everyone explodes into a cloud of anger instead of not being offended?” I ask, fighting a smug look. She smirks like I’ve fallen into a trap. “Because the world needs feminism to function; if you insulted the government the same thing would happen,” she retorts. It’s becoming clear to me that she’s just quoting unsourced documents and since her arguments are other people's opinions I’m not going to change her mind with facts my fists clench harder.

“Alright then, why am I the bad guy in all of this if I say ‘not all men’?” I ask knowing the knee jerk reaction I’m about to get. “Because it’s enough men that it’s a problem! Women should feel safe walking home from school, Not threatened! Rape is a real problem you can’t just brush it off!” she says grabbing my shoulders. “Why the Hell am I the bad guy though. Stop dodging the question.” I say standing completely still with her hands on my shoulders.

“You’re a potential rapist to someone you pass on the street. You and I know you wouldn’t do that but they don’t,” she says angrily. I can see the rage in her eyes, like a fire burning from a large vast space of opinions mixed with facts. “Did you know that over half of rape is initiated by women?” I ask, hoping that this isn’t the last conversation I have as a free man. “That’s not what we’re talking about here John, don’t change the subject,” she says, near scream level. Even though that’s what she has been doing this entire conversation if I try to change the subject so I’m not in the firing line I get shot down. “I’m not going to go on with this conversation if you’re going to be angry like this”. I finally say. “Well fuck you too” She exclaimed before leaving the room stomping. “Thank god” I say unclenching my fist and being glad that there were no knives in the room, for then I would have murder charges. That is a true story about how fake ‘feminists’ are treating individuals like me. Thank you for your time, don’t be an asshole.

Are you on Tumblr?
Do you see this anti-male phenomenon
that our teen boys are fighting?

SOOOOO Glad we Homeschool

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I love it that we homeschool.
Our family has homeschooled for about thirteen years now and each year it grows better and better; so many things I read about in the world make me so grateful that we made that decision so long ago.

From actual prayer in school to the teachers who proselytize to their class to science classes deciding to leave evolution and science out of science class I have celebrated our homeschool lifestyle dozens of time. The mere fact that our already near-bottom-rated schools are so excellent at handling religion, diversity, and pluralism takes out the sting.  Not.

One of my young teen friends frequently tells me about her high school science class. There is no mention of evolution or the big bang in that class. My friend has talked to her teacher about this and the teacher has stood by her right to not in the science class. In fact, the teacher seems to be bopping around the classroom feeling quite justified in her state-supported Religion-as-Science high school science class.  And my friend who wants to learn about reality is out of luck. Because some deity or another gets dibs.

The politically- and religiously-charged atmosphere of our country is such a divided powder keg right now, and I do think it is important for our kids to have a general understanding of the energy and the conflict...but I truly don't want anyone else doing the explaining to my kids, you know? Especially not someone who might be more than happy to pretend that they have all of the answers, the right answers. I simply don't trust the teachers, especially the less-qualified or less-educated teachers, to be objective about this issue.

The diversity of our country and the constitutionality of the separation of church and state would seem to suggest that this whole science in a science class would be a done deal. Even the continuous debate about religion in the schools in this country would seem to suggest that at least some people are aware of little things like the constitution, yet religion keeps gaining ground in our classrooms. (Not all religion, just the Christian religion.)

Perhaps it is the people wanting to have religion in public schools who need to be worrying because, in my experience, it is the freethinking atheist children/humans of the world who are the best informed and the ones willing to speak up for their rights. So, YES, I'm happily educating my children in a secular home with secular values and no one can come in here and take our science out of science least not yet.

The posturing in the debates is freaking me out. 
So VOTE people! Support the ACLU!  

Are you going to vote?
Are you Republican?

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I Wish More Homeschoolers were Secular
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On Being Religion-Free

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Death, Grief, Loss: Atheism Style

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One of the easiest steps to trip over as an atheist parent is helping our children to understand and to face the realities of death, grief, and loss. Some people want so desperately to help their children avoid the pain of loss that their self doubt sneaks in and suggests that the idea of heaven is a good place holder for reality...until their children are older.  After all, isn't it easier?

It can be tempting, easy to tell our children that there is a lovely heaven waiting at the end of our lifetime. We look into their frightened faces, we see their eyes pleading for another answer, we know how difficult reality is to deal with. We know because reality is difficult for adults to deal with too. And yet...

The shortcut offered by magical thinking has a very high cost. It gives a fertile ground for fiction and mythology to grow like a weed. It circumvents critical thought. Often...often it challenges parents who are still very uncomfortable with the concept of death being the final point of life.  Brainwashing can be strong and we can be weak.

Some recovering first-generation atheist parents still feel the guilt, the pull of the supernatural. It might seem so much easier to offer heaven to reality. But it's not easier because it's not true.

They will look at you with those faces, those adorable faces, asking questions like Will you die, Momma? and Will I die, Momma? and, though your heart is breaking, you will have to answer those I've made this video for you so that you will be prepared...a little.

The video is on SecTv's channel and is called 


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