Saturday, March 20, 2010

More Q & A

Here are a few of the more interesting Qs submitted to my Formspring account, along with my As. Since I couldn't manage to write anything of substance on the blog, I'll post these instead!

I've edited them slightly for typos/grammatical errors, fyi. The little text box on the Formspring website makes it difficult to view one's entire response all at once, and I find that frustrating, since I have little patience to edit inside of that little space.

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How would you react if one of your children, at age 12, decided to become a Christian and start attending the nearest Baptist Church?

Ah, this is a tricky one! I don't mind them exploring religions and religious ideas, but I'd like to be involved in the process.

12 years old is probably a likely age to be curious about that kind of stuff (I guess, I'll let you know when I get one of those models). I'd like to think that we'd have lots of discussions about what he/she learns in church.

My main concern would be learning what the child gets out of going to church. Figuring that out (which might be hard) will help me to understand what need the kid is trying to fulfill, and if I can I'll try to help him fulfill those needs outside of church, too. For example, if he has a really great friend who goes there, or seems to like the social activities, maybe his interest is mostly social; he needs friends. There are ways I can help fulfill this need, too. If he's curious about the ideas, we can talk about them, study other religions, etc.

I don't think it would be too unusual for a 12 year old (ish) kid to be curious about these things called churches, and indeed, we've already encountered this curiosity. We have explained what goes on in there, and a little about the major world religions that people still practice. So they know that Jesus Christ is the god of the Christians, and churches are where those people go to spend time talking about JC and doing things to worship JC together. They know about old religions, too--Greek and Egyptian myths, mostly.

I haven't exactly encountered this--yet--so I don't know exactly what I'd do, but I know what I would NOT do--freak out. If I make this into a really big deal, or forbid it, or refuse to take them to see a church, I can see that I'd be running the risk of making it MORE interesting or tempting. The Forbidden Fruit, if you will. :o)

I think keeping an open dialogue, letting the child explore it, being very, very honest about what *I* think about it, asking open-ended questions ("Really? What makes you think there is a god?") will be more beneficial to their experience and their making up their own minds.

Now, a 22 year old or 32 year old child who decided to become a minister or something...that would be disappointing to me. I can't imagine it not being (as I'm certain my parents are disappointed that I'm an atheist).

But one of the things I try to keep in mind in this parenting adventure is the fact of reality that they are unique, separate individuals, who are really NOT in my control. I can't make some of them use the potty! How can I expect to *make* them be religious or not-religious, or...well, anything?

I can only truly control what *I* do--work to keep an open, honest relationship with each of them, and help them explore the world and make up their own minds. It's difficult to accept that they might go off and become Communists or Baptists or something else with which I strongly disagree...but that really is a possibility. I intend to do my very best to make sure they grasp the concepts, but really, the ultimate decision about what to believe and how to think about things--how to use their own minds--is up to each one of them.

[In other words, you can lead a child to reason, but you can't make him think.]

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As a child, my parents were big role models in their church for raising four good christian kids. This put a lot of pressure on me as I didn't want to make my parents look bad, even after leaving religion. Do you think there are similar pressures with y

Your question got cut off by formspring, but I think you're asking if I feel pressure from other Objectivists to raise my kids to be Objectivists, and if my kids decide to think otherwise (not become Oists), it'll reflect badly on me or my parenting or create stress between us. (If that's not correct, please send in another question!)

I would hope most Objectivists realize that children have free will, and that when they're adults they'll be responsible for their own decisions, and not me. My husband and I can certainly influence them--and I hope for the better--and we'll do our best to pass along our values and ideas when the occasion warrants.

For the record, we haven't discussed Objectivism per se with any of the children outside of "Ayn Rand is a lady who had some really great ideas we agree with, and that's why we're starting a club for people who like her here in Atlanta." We had similar discussions when we participated in two Tea Parties last year and brought pro-Ayn Rand signs. We do pass along our values and teach the virtues to them, but we do NOT explicitly say "Hey Kids! Here's your Objectivist lesson today and it's about honesty...blah blah blah." So as far as they know, Brendan and I are freaking brilliant because it looks like all our idea to them! (Actually, we are not so much "brilliant" in their eyes as "wrong" since they are forever telling me about why I'm wrong about this or that.) :o)

Back to the question though. The only person I can completely control is myself. So I am primarily (and rationally selfishly) concerned with ME. I strive to be moral and virtuous and improve where I can and when I need to. I think the parenting strategy we've chosen helps me do just that even while I'm in the middle of a tricky parenting situation (provided I don't lose my temper, that is).

What my kids will take away from their childhoods really remains to be seen. I hope that when they reach adulthood that they decide to agree with me and Brendan. But even if they don't, I will know that I parented the best way I knew how according to the virtues, and hopefully modeled those virtues at the same time (most of the time). It's the only thing that is truly within my control, and that's good, because that means I can keep my focus on being rationally self-interested.

Interesting question. I hope I answered it. Would be interested in follow up questions from you (the original asker) or anyone, really. I might have more to add as I think this over.

[Again with the leading the children thing . . . .]

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How long did you breastfeed your children? Did they self-wean?

I originally planned to nurse for about 9 months to a year. Ryan nursed for about 15 months, and it was a mutual weaning. I sort of wish I'd tried to keep him going more, but at the time I was ready, and he never asked for it after that last time.

Morgan nursed until just past three years of age. Yes, years. Most of the last year was just at night before bed, part of our bedtime routine. The process of weaning was gradual and mutual, although I was the one to finally be done with it, as I was 7 months pregnant at the time and it really was uncomfortable for me.

I'm still nursing Sean, who is 21 months old. Of the three kids, he's my super-nursey baby. I'm hoping he'll wean before he goes to college. Kidding! I think he'll go until he's about three as well. I think the weaning process goes best when it's mostly child-led, but there's a point at which I get a say-so, too. Lately, I'm doing the "don't offer; don't refuse" strategy during the daytime, to encourage him to eat more food. So I don't bring it up, but I don't turn him away when he wants to nurse. This strategy has got him down to nursing once during the day [usually], just before his nap. Not turning him away is very important to me because at his age, nursing is part-food, but part-comfort & feeling close to me. I don't whip out a boob instantaneously when he wants to nurse--he's old enough to begin to wait for me and develop a little patience, but I also want him to know that he can trust me to provide for his needs. So there's a "relationship" aspect to nursing a toddler, too.

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With everything you go through helping your child with food allergies, what is the biggest lesson you've learned?

The biggest lesson I've learned might be learning how to explain big scary things to my child, yet making him feel in control of this and empowered to handle a situation. I don't know if I've been completely successful at this, but we've done pretty okay I think. He is afraid of his allergy, to be sure. But he knows our plan, he trusts us to take care of him, and he understands that we (and he) are in control. It's a very fine line, as you know. I've also learned that I can be brave and composed when my child is scared.

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Do your older kids get embarrassed when you write about them on your blog? Do you plan to stop writing about them, or use fake names, because of privacy concerns as they get older?

I have often wondered how my writing about them will change as they get older. They are aware of the blog and that I write about them. As far as Ryan's concerned now, it's all good because he has declared that he wants to be famous (and rich and in charge of the world)! Anything I can do to help. :)

They don't read my blog, but I think one day they probably will. I will talk to them about the stories I share and I think that if/when they don't want me to share certain things about them, then I'll respect that. It will be something we all have to work out together, but I'm confident we'll be able to figure something out. I imagine this will come up as they approach the teenage years.

As it is, I do not share very personal stories that I think they'll feel embarrassed about when they're older, either because they're silly or in a particular case, a very serious transgression that one of them will probably feel very badly about when they're old enough to understand all of the implications of what might have happened.

I would like them to look back on the things I wrote and hopefully see how much fun we all had together, even when I was feeling worried or frustrated by some particular thing. I want them to know that this is the best job I've ever had.

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And, of course, the most important:

Do you have any theories about who DRUNKHULK really is? ~Ans

I really, really don't! I wish I knew because I'd like to have a drink with him. :)

Yay for Formspring! And yay for those who sent me interesting questions--send me more!

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