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Parenting Taboos

This. Is. Genius.

And, clearly, stolen from us.



Guru Fever

Carla: It goes against every fiber of my being to too my own horn, but I am pretty excited about this opportunity that’s in front of me and I wanted to tell you about it. I’ve been chosen as a top 20 finalist in Good Morning America’s Advice Guru search. The competition is fierce, and it’s rather intimidating to be competing with a woman whose books are on my bookshelf (hello Vicky Iovine!). So all of my self-doubts and insecurities are threatening to suck the joy out of this rather amazing turn of events. Still, I wanted to tell you about it because you have helped me get to this point.

I applied for this position because it seemed like a chance to keep talking about the kinds of things we deal with here at the MR. It’s a way to keep shifting people’s ideas of family, of parenting, of children, of motherhood toward something more sustainable. Whether I get that chance or not, I am incredibly grateful for this community where those conversations have been–and continue to be–so meaningful for so many people, myself included.

I don’t know much about the next steps, but for now, people are invited to comment on the profile pages of the finalists and “like” them on Facebook. If you’re so inclined, I’d love your support.

Caryn: Okay, you know how excited I am for you. I’m tempted to ask who I need to sleep with to make this happen. That’s how good a friend I am (well, almost, of course, I’d never actually do that. Totally kidding, GMA–and, my dear husband, Rafi. Love you!). But Vicki Freakin’ Iovine?!?!? She’s a hero. And yes, that’s some serious competition.

That said, she’s no Carla Barnhill. Obviously, you’re the better choice. What I think we should do at the Rev to get the ball rolling is to have Revolutionaries ASK you questions and get to hear your wisdom.

So start asking, people! And we’ll have Carla answer them here. You game, Carla? Are you paying attention, GMA?

Assuaging My Guilt?

Caryn: So after tweeting some about my irritation at Amazon for allowing what seems to be a “how to molest children” book, the kind folks at Her.Meneutics asked me to write up a post on it. So I thought about what I actually thought and wrote it. I expected–and still expect–all sorts of mixed views on this (especially since the whole post is about my own mixed views), but I would have never thought in a zillion years that it could make people attack me as a mother (I was trying to protect children, after all!). But, alas, since I am a mom, I suppose this just comes par for the course.

After making some valid points, here’s what Adam had to say about the hubbub surrounding the #Amazonfail campaign (the bolds are mine, for emphasis):

“If this makes some people feel good that they protected their children (because this was really about the mommy bloggers more than anything else) does this just assuage guilt for spending so much time online instead of playing with kids?

“I get your point about doing something even if we cannot do everything. But I wonder about how the something gets chosen. It is rarely the most important thing. It is usually something that doesn’t directly affect us. And usually it has little long term consequence. But it makes us feel better that we have done something.”

Okay. So. Fine. I agree that I didn’t end molestation as we know it. I realize I didn’t free any sex slaves or feed any starving children. The world is no less peaceful. Probably no one “came to Christ” as a result of my post. But really? He thinks that tweeters or writers simply take on things to make themselves feel good so that we don’t feel so bad for neglecting our kids? Is he implying that playing with our kids IS the most important thing? Is he saying I don’t?

And what’s this about not being directly affected by this? We’re not affected if our neighbor downloads this book?

Maybe I’m way over-reacting here (why do I even care?), but man alive. Must it always come back to this for moms?

Do men do this to one another? Does anyone EVER question a dad for getting involved in something that takes up all of 10 minutes of their time of missing out on the most important things? Poop.


Carla: Blurg. Plus, I didn’t hear about it from “mommy blogs” but from various friends–male and female alike–on Facebook. To me–and I think you point this out beautifully in your original piece–there are about 800 issues going on in this one event. Issues of censorship and legality and capitalism and the free market and social networking and communal outrage. Are those related to mommy guilt? No. Are moms human beings who feel outrage over all kinds of things that have nothing to do with motherhood? Yes.

And I also think Adam is making a false argument. Frustration, anger, outrage, activist aren’t zero-sum games. We can be upset about one thing and not another and that doesn’t invalidate either of them. And of course it makes us feel better to do something. My word! If we all waiting to act until we could make a systemic difference, nothing would ever get done. Change starts with awareness and awareness leads to action. Even if that action is a tweet or a status update, it’s going to draw attention to a problem and that’s when things get better.

Finally, the guilt trip aside, how does this issue being one that moms are worked up about make it any less important? Adam might want to consider that outraged moms have been the force behind changes in the laws about drunk driving, healthcare and other kinds of aid to poor women and children, the entire field of social work, the growing awareness of the horrors of the sex trade, even abolition. A pissed-off mom is not to be trifled with, a lesson Amazon was wise to learn sooner rather than later.

Caryn: Words to live by, Carla. Thanks for validating.

Taking Credit

Caryn: Last month, on my way to pick my 8-year-old son up from Math Team practice, a mom stopped to chat with me. She asked why I was there after school. When I said I was picking up my “mathlete,” she asked me the darnedest thing: “Is your husband good at math or something?”

Okay. So I try to be really nice to people. To be gracious. To be understanding. After all, this woman DID know that I’m a writer–a WORD person–and that it’s not a terrible guess to assume that maybe I’m not be the one with the math genes.

But still. She couldn’t have actually know that my husband was a bona-fide mathlete champ at his fancy prep school (I know…). And she didn’t  in fact know that I knew a thing or two about math (at least, once upon a time).

So here’s what I answered: “Yeah. He is. But when I was in third grade, I was the class multiplication champ. So I think Henrik might get this from me.” And then I smiled, tilted my head and said I had to go.

Seriously. I’m not normally snotty. But this question really bugged me. For many reasons. One, because of the assumption that my boy’s math ability came from the MAN of the family and not me. Two, because I somehow made the leap that this woman therefore assumed Number People–not Word People–were the smart ones. And three–and this one came later–because it made me realize how obsessed I actually am with taking credit for my kids’ abilities.

Like, when that same son won a writing contest last year, I totally peacocked around about it. Totally smiled whenever someone insinuated he got MY gifts.

But this is silly–so stage-momish. While some things may get passed down, even when they’re similar, they certainly aren’t OUR gifts we’re passing on. They’re still the ones that God chose to dole out.

Of course, it’s easier to see this with my other kids, who don’t share gifts with me. My 5-year-old daughter draws like nobody’s business and comes up with all her own crazy outfits. My 3-year-old could play any variety of ball all day long. Neither of those resemble me at all. Not too much my husband (mathlete, remember?) either. Although, my dear husband will gladly show you the nudes he sketched in a college art class any time. He’s quite proud.

So whatcha think? Anybody else wrestle with taking credit? Is it okay?

Links You’ll Love

Carla: Lately, friends have been sent us some great links to all kinds of articles. So now, a little throwback to the days of the web log:

On Being a Bad Mother

The Wishing Tree

Blessings of a B-Minus

More to come!

We’re Coming Out

Carla: Okay Caryn, this is it. We’ve talked about it since we starting this blog and now we’re making it happen. Today is National Coming Out Day and we are going to say here what we’ve said to each other hundreds of times: We love and support our gay friends.

We’ve chosen this day to talk about homosexuality because it’s become painfully clear in the last several weeks that not talking about it is killing our kids.

The bullying that has lead to the deaths of at least five teenagers in the last couple of months, including at least two here in Minnesota, has centered on a kind of cruelty that cuts to the heart of a person’s identity. What makes this kind of bullying particularly damaging to kids is that:

1) It comes at a point in their development when they are trying to figure out who they are and whether or not they have any worth in the world. Teenagers are fragile, even in the best of circumstances. Their lives are fraught with physical and emotional changes that seem like they’ll never end. Their social lives are in constant upheaval. What seems trivial to us can be monumental to them. That means the words and actions of their peers have the power to do far more damage that we can imagine.

2) It hurts whether it’s true or not. Using sexual slurs like “fag” to label a child because of the way he dresses or his attitude or his voice or his interests tells him that whatever kind of man he’s becoming, it’s not okay. And he can’t win–once the label has stuck, there’s no getting it off. For some kids, death is the only escape. And that’s tragic.

We have to make it stop.

As people of faith, we are called to care for the forgotten, to feed the hungry and clothe the poor. We are called to welcome the stranger, to bind the wounds of the injured. Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).

Right now, gay teenagers are the oppressed. They aren’t the only ones of course, but they are in crisis and we need to stand up and say “It’s over.”

We can do that by:

1) Teaching our kids that no matter what we think about homosexuality, it’s never okay for one person to ridicule another for any reason.

2) Teaching them that our God stands with the powerless and asks us to do the same.

3) Telling our schools we support their efforts to put a stop to this kind of bullying. It has often been Christians who have opposed including language that includes homosexual slurs in anti-bullying policies at public schools. We have tremendous power to ensure sure that all kids receive the same protection from bullying.

4) Changing the way we talk about homosexuality in our homes and our churches–in the last few weeks I’ve heard Christians refer to gay people as “junk,” “trash,” “defective,” “perverts,” and “damaged.” Talk about bullying!

5) Creating churches and youth groups that are places of safety and love for all people, no matter their sexuality, so that together we can become who God made us to be. We can only grow when we know we are loved for exactly who we are.

Obviously, my stance on homosexuality falls to the left of center. I love my gay friends and I believe God loves them, too, just the way they are. But even if you believe differently, I think we can all agree that gay teenagers need our love, our care, and our protection. And they need it now.

Caryn: I’m not sure that your stance on homosexuality (or the gist of it) is left of center. Because that would make MY belief that as Christians we’re called to love our neighbors–ALL our neighbors, gay, straight, rich, poor, fat, skinny, Socialist, Tea-Partiers, Christian, athiest, nice, mean, married, single, blah, blah, blah–left of center. And that would mean I think Jesus is left of center, and of course, we all know Jesus would vote Libertarian….. ; )

But really, I don’t like that this issue even becomes political for Christians because it’s such a simple call: to love. No matter what. No matter if you agree with someone or something. No matter if you even like someone or something. Just love.

So, yes, any time anyone feels unloved by the world, any time anyone is bullied or threatened by the world, we as Christians need to be there piling on the love. Like Jesus does. And wherever there is meanness and cruelty, we need to be shining the light on the horror of that. We need to step in and stop it. And then love the bullied –and the bully.

I do want to address suggestion #4, however. Take it to task maybe. Of course, there are Christians who call gay people all sorts of horrible things. But I’m not happy singling this out as a Christian issue. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I grew up in the church, went to Christian schools and a Christian college. Then I worked for a Christian company. I don’t ever remember hearing any blatant gay bashing. (With the exception that we ALL used to use “gay” as a substitute for “stupid” or “lame” back in the day.)

I realize it exists in subtle forms and in other ways, and I realize that many churches aren’t exactly courting the gay community, but I’m not ready to jump on the bandwagon and say this is a Christians versus the Gays issue. This bullying. Or even the hate thing. I don’t see it or hear it happening.

It’s important to recognize that homophobia knows no religious boundaries. Muslims, Buddhists, Mormoms, Athiests, Scientologists, Wiccans, Unitarians, Regular Non-Believing Sorts all have people who gay bash too. So let’s just be fair. (Though, it’s probably mostly men. Can we blame men?)

That said, BECAUSE we love Jesus and want to follow the guy who befriended Zacchaeus–who was at once a bully and bullied–we need to be nice and love. Always.

Carla: You’re right on #4 and I didn’t mean for it to sound like I think Christians are doing the bullying in schools or that Christians are the reason it’s happening. I don’t think that. But I do think we have been guilty of indifference or at least inaction because the issue of homosexuality can be contentious in our churches and our conversations. And since I don’t know how many Wiccans read this blog, I thought I’d stick with our core audience.

The examples I gave are exceptions to be sure and I know the vast majority of Christians don’t talk that way, but we need to stand up when we hear our fellow Christians–or anyone else–use such derogatory terms for another human being. We need to make sure we never let those kinds of words–or worse–fall from our own lips, especially in front of our children. One of those examples came from a letter to the editor in my hometown paper, a letter written by the wife of a Lutheran pastor in town. It’s not just the wackos who say these things, it’s that nice Norwegian lady who makes a mean hotdish. And I wonder if the people in her church will tell her that’s not okay, that it’s harmful and not at all Christ-like. I hope so.

Caryn: Well, of course a Norwegian would write that! You know how they are. Nothing but trouble, thinking they’re so cool with their fjords and coastline and their mountains and their elkhounds, getting the exhibit at Epcot Center, when Sweden is obviously the better country… I’m sure if she’s got Swedes in her church, they’ll be happy to set her straight–or, gay.


Carla: This video made me laugh and I felt I needed to share it with all of you.