March 20, 2012

Politics & Motherhood

Warning: I'm about to get political and motherly which can be two of the scariest things either separately or (and definitely) combined.

Tonight as I was laying in bed I was reading on my iPhone. I came across two articles that struck chords with me, and I need to get how I'm feeling about them off my chest before I can have any hope of a peaceful night's sleep--and that's barring any unforeseen screaming that Olivia plans on doing tonight (still not sleeping through the night). *An amendment to this post: during the time I wrote this previous sentence and the time I posted, Olivia has been up twice.

I'll get political first, and if you don't want to read what I have to say about the issues (or this one in particular), skip down to where I get motherly. Either way, brace yourself.

The first article that I read was found on The Huffington Post's mobile site, and which I have relocated on their website for the purposes of this post. Turns out it was posted 4 days ago, but I  don't see how that matters. Here's the link:

True, it's an extremely long post which, to some of the more ignorant men out there, might be construed as a pissed-off woman's rant. Except that it is. Only it's much more than that. This woman has every right to feel this way. I feel this way. I feel that all women with a brain and a heartbeat who are mature enough to understand this issue should feel this way--outraged at the horror that is described in this article.

Let me make this perfectly clear. The "horror that is described in this article" that I am referring to is not the act of abortion. What I am referring to is any staunch right-winged Republican man who thinks he knows what is best for me. No, no, wait, wait...that's still not quite right. Let me try again. What I am referring to is any man who thinks he knows what is best for me. Are we crystal?

Good. Now, I hope I haven't upset anyone by saying that I wasn't referring to the act of abortion as being horrendous, because that is not what I believe, it's just not what I was referring to. If I have, go ahead and take this opportunity to un-wad your granny-panties. Of course the act of abortion is a terrible thing. I believe it's a terrible way to end a life, and that it's a terrible experience for any woman to go through. This whole "pro-life" vs. "pro-choice" stance is just ridiculous. Now, I don't know this for a fact, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that no woman gets pregnant with the intention of aborting a fetus. My personal belief is that abortion is one way to deal with what is perceived as a "problem", and that is a difficult, gut-wrenching, painstaking decision for any woman to make. I do not believe that the decision to abort is ever made lightly, just as the decision to carry a fetus to full-term as a result of an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy is either. The point is that both are choices, and that right to have that choice needs to be protected. I think that, as women, we need to start showing each other some compassion for this choice that is being made. I can anticipate flack from fellow Christians who might essentially say that "abortion is murder" and to them I say, step back. While I do believe that life begins at conception, isn't God the final judge of us all? I don't know about you, whoever you are, but I know that for me, I'd much rather be judged for loving too much, than not loving enough. I'd much rather be judged for being too compassionate and sensitive, than for being found wanting.

If you haven't figured it out already, I tend to side with the Democrats on most issues, although I do have sentiments that would be classified as Republican. For example, I believe that women (and men) should be educated about pregnancy, and about sex, since (disregarding technological advances and personal experience) that is what leads to pregnancy--Democratic. However, I also believe that abstinence is the only sure-fire way to prevent a pregnancy and can understand how educators (or perhaps it's just the states at this point) are eager to cut to the chase and set the bottom line for kids who are learning about these issues--Republican...but only slightly. I believe that forms and methods of contraception need, not should but need, to be taught in public schools because, as human's, even the "tweens" and teens who face these issues in their lives deserve to be informed about, well, all of the information that we as responsible and caring adults can give them--Democratic. This all being said, education is where combat on this entire issue needs to start. I wonder to myself: shouldn't those who are said to be pro-life be in favor of educating children to the fullest extent regarding sex and pregnancy so as to prevent the unwanted or dangerous pregnancies that cause this debate in the first place? If unwanted pregnancies weren't occurring because men and women are educated about how to prevent pregnancy effectively, wouldn't there be much less of a need for all of this debate? Of course this is not fail-safe and cases of unwanted pregnancy will alway occur for the rest of mankind, but I  really think that showing some responsibility as adults/educators/parents would be a great start in nixing this problem from the get-go.

Now that my tangent on sex education has been resolved, let me get back to the issue on hand. There is not much else that terrifies me more than anyone trying to dictate policy that involves removing my own control of my own body. Be it my legs, my eyes, or my uterus, hands-off everyone, I'm not trying to invade your personal space, choice, or bubble, so get the hell out of mine.

Ah, here comes the motherly part. Okay everyone, breathe in, breathe out. We good? Great.

The second article that I read to night was a referral from the Somerville Mom's group that I am a part of. It's a bunch of men and women with ties to Somerville who post messages to the listserv about whatever they want. Some people are selling or looking for baby items, some people are notifying everyone else of upcoming open-houses at the preschool down the street, or some people post links to articles that they find interesting. This one is found at:

Now, unlike the first article which I mostly agreed with, I mostly disagreed with the content of this second article. The premise of this article is that praising children is actually detrimental to their development as constructive, independent, successful individuals. It speaks about how praise serves parents' laziness more than it serves children's positive development. The article asks readers to stop and think about the ways that their praise is actually hurting and hindering their children. It gives reasons such as praise is manipulative, it serves to create "praise-junkies", and that praise actually steals a child's delight away from their accomplishment (whaaat??)

I find it absolutely absurd, to be quite blunt, that anyone could construe praising a child as being detrimental to their development. As someone who studied child development thoroughly in college (perhaps, say, to the point of majoring in it?), I am horrified at parents who might agree with the ideas this article is putting forth. Here I am, being judgmental, hypocritical to my last topic's argument. I just simply do not believe it is okay to withhold praise from your child. One thing I noticed is that this article references children of significantly different developmental stages and groups them into one reference to "children" in general. This is its first mistake. Children who are older, more mature and hopefully, barring any detrimental praise from their parents, more developed than younger children (like my girls at this developmental stage) should of course be able to think for themselves and be able to determine whether their actions are good or bad, right or wrong.

But where does that determination stem from, people? Allow me. PARENTS! Parents are the guardians, the steerers, the educators, and the protectors for their children. If my child, at 18 months old, tackles her sister (as she so often does), it is my job, duty, and intuition as her mother and knowing right from wrong for myself, to pull her off, reprimand her, and help her to understand the situation to the best of her toddler-brained capabilities. Similarly, if instead of throwing her block toy at her sister's head, my daughter chooses to hand it over nicely in an obvious attempt to share, I am going to see to my same job, duty, and intuition in this situation and praise her for making a good decision. This really is a no-brainer for me, people.

I absolutely know that one day my daughters will not need to look at me for clarification on whether their actions are thoughtful and kind because that is how I am raising them. As their mother, I am actively making decisions to teach my children how to make their own decisions and to show kindness and compassion (ah, there's that word again!) and love and discernment in their own actions. If they do not learn these things within a few years, we're not even talking adulthood here, then it is because my parenting has failed them, and at that point shall warrant a review of technique and/or content. It will certainly not, however, be due to the praise that I provide them for their love, joy, peacefulness, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control--and yes, 18 month olds display all of these qualities. And while these qualities might be innate, that is to say that humans are of decent nature, they all need some encouragement, aka praise, in order to develop.

My parents praised me as a child and I turned out better than fine, thank you very much. Perhaps the author's parents didn't praise them, which is what has led to them to be so utterly confused? Or oh, I'm sorry, they must have received too much praise. Lucky for them, their mother chose not to abort.

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