Shower the People

I dutifully posted a reminder on my FaceBook wall to watch last night’s final presidential debate.

However, I didn’t watch it myself, and here’s why.

I had better things to do, and not in the snarky sense of “debates suck and why would I watch” but in the very real sense of I had a choice to sit and watch my daughter practice for a band competition or watch the debate and I chose my daughter.

I’m a band geek at heart, so having a child in the largest marching band in the country is pretty exciting for me. They are also deep into marching competition practices which means they are working hard and perfecting every section of their show. And my daughter is a great marcher. And I love her. And I want to show her how much watching her do what she loves makes me happy.

The Allen High School Band at their last competition a week and a half ago.

I am most definitely not one of those super self sacrificing uber-moms. I wish I was, but I care too much about my own life to be totally selfless. (If you’re a fan of the Divergent books, you know I would never be in Abnegation.) I do however try to find balance between the time I spend on me and the time I devote to the people I love, and sometimes, the issues of the world just do not fit into that equation.

As much as I believe it’s important to be informed and news savvy, I also believe in retreating to that little cocoon that is my husband and kids…the rest of the world be damned.

This weekend an acquaintance of mine lost a child to SIDS, and an acquaintance of my husband was killed in a motorcycle accident. When things like that happens, it is human nature to stop and think about your own mortality and the mortality of the people you love. We can’t always live each day like it’s our last, but we remember to appreciate that the time we have together is limited and do our very best to enjoy it.

And that it why I spent my evening with friends and with great music instead of fuming over the TV.

And I don’t regret it one. little. bit.

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Not Sure if I Feel Old, or Invigorated

I’ll warn you that I’m in a sentimental mood.

I haven’t blogged for more than two weeks, for two reasons,

1.) I’ve been writing a lot for school which makes for less motivation to write for fun. (My first term is going very well, thanks for asking.)

2.)Politics has me down, and I am really not motivated to write about that. Between the commercials, and telephone calls I’m already getting, I wish I could wake up in December and skip this whole election season.

Saturday, I took a break from studying and news watching to volunteer for my daughter’s high school band‘s annual march-a-thon. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to volunteer very much during the school year, I consented to the job they have the hardest time filling, marching alongside the band for the whole route. Everyone told me I was crazy for doing it, but hey, someone’s got to.

Photo: Scott Yarberry, Yarberry Photography

First of all let me fill you in on the high school marching band in my town. The Allen Escadrille is the largest marching band in the country with over 800 (yes, 800) members including the color guard and drill team. Every year they hold a march-a-thon to raise funds for their spring trip, and march 10 miles in August in TexasYee haw, and God bless America.


I LOVED every minute of it.

For as little personal musical experience and talent as I have, I still consider myself a band geek, so I thoroughly enjoyed marching alongside the kids, listening to them play and living a bit vicariously through them. 10 miles, and they spent every bit of it playing music and performing these little marching chants and laughing and being silly. People from town line the parade route to cheer them on and spray them down with hoses to cool them off. It’s an event with a lot of joy and great energy. (It didn’t hurt that it was only in the 80s and overcast. The joy probably wears off around mile 4 when it’s 110 degrees out.)

Photo: Scott Yarberry, Yarberry Photography

Another confession…

I’m really kind of a jerk when it comes to my tolerance of teenaged shenanigans. I’d rather have peace and quiet, which tend to be in short supply when a group of teenagers get together. I feel badly that I feel that way, but I do.

Today was a different story. Maybe because the march-a-thon is all about them. Maybe I was in band geek heaven so I was feeling in a particularly generous mood. Who knows? I just marched alongside them and soaked in the fun and free spirited vibe they were giving off.

Midway through the march-a-thon the kids get loaded up onto buses (23 of them) and travel across town to do the second half of the march. I happened to be the only adult aside from the bus driver on my bus, and I did my best to be inconspicuous.

The music was turned up and the kids were dancing in their seats and singing. I smiled to myself as I watched, remembering my own high school days (mostly) fondly. Remembering when I could be silly with my friends and sing at the top of my lungs in public without anyone looking at me like I was crazy (or at least not caring if they thought I was crazy). Watching the looks on their faces as they sang the un-edited versions of the song on the radio, that tiny bit of rebellion giving them an extra twinkle in their eyes…especially when Enrique Ingelsias’s “Tonight I’m Loving You” came on. (If you don’t know the real lyrics, I’ll let you discover them on YouTube or Google.)

Next up was the song “We Are Young” by the band fun., and the whole bus erupted into singing. Just unrestrained, unselfconscious singing. The girls and the boys both singing that anthem to youth and wild behavior, and I couldn’t help but sit there and think about how little they understand the freedom they have being the age they are. Youth, as they say, is wasted on the young.

But, as I’m writing this, I surely do hope that every one of those kids on the bus carry the sentiment of the refrain of that song with them tonight, and every day and night for as long as they can.

And I hope that just a little bit of that rubbed off on me.

As a post script to this story, let me say that while I felt fantastic for the whole 10 mile march and from basking in youthful exuberance, I got home and dutifully sat down for about an hour to study. After which time I got up, or should I say, tried to get up from the couch. Every muscle was sore and tight…ah well, forty is a far cry from sixteen I guess, at least physically. All I can say is, thank goodness for Advil and warm soaks…but I’ll be back to volunteer next year, you can count on it.

I’ve just started my graduate studies to become a nurse-midwife, so while I wrap my head around my schoolwork and get organized I’m re-blogging a different perspective on the “pros” of Obamacare. I’m hoping to have a guest blog for the “con” side soon. If you like this post check out some of Dr Sloan‘s other articles; he has a great and informative blog.

Mark Sloan M.D.

“You cannot educate an unhealthy child, and you cannot keep an uneducated child healthy.” Jocelyn Elders M.D., former U.S. Surgeon General

I was one of millions of happy people following Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Affordable Care Act. The ACA greatly expands access to care, benefits, and coverage for millions of children, and if there’s any hope for the future of this country it has to start with healthy children.

It’s difficult for people with health insurance to truly understand what it’s like for those who don’t have it. Or for those who had it and then lost it in the recent economic downturn. And it’s easy to overlook the toll this can take on a child’s chances of success in life.

Here’s one example from my practice:

I took care of a family I’ll call the Swensons for several years. Greg and Connie have three kids…

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Heartbroken, and Disbelieving

I watched….or should I say, started to watch a video online today. You may have seen it. It was the 10 minute video of a bunch of kids on a bus harassing and making fun of their bus monitor.

She sat there crying.

They laughed and continued, growing bolder in their language and the types of things they were saying to her, while someone on the bus recorded it. Here it is, but I warn you the language is terrible and it will break your heart.

I was able to watch a couple of minutes until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I had two thoughts.

1. How beaten down by life do you have to be to have a bunch of (what looked like) middle-school kids call you a fat ass (and worse) and you just sit there and take their abuse without even trying to discipline them?

2. How do you watch that level of pain and distress in someone and not have any empathy for them or shame in what you’re doing?

To the first thought, I have some answers. The woman in the video is a widow who also has buried a child….making some of the kids’ comments even more horrific… she has known a lot of sorrow. She apparently struggles to make ends meet, another thing the kids made fun of, which we all know can be an incredible stressor. Maybe she kept quiet because she knew if she started yelling she wouldn’t stop, or maybe she was afraid that if she said anything she would end up in trouble, which in this day and age is entirely possible. Either way, her quiet acceptance of their abuse was a terrible thing to witness.

To the second thought, I have no answers. I just don’t understand. When I asked my daughter about whether or not she’d seen this video, she said that she had and that it didn’t surprise her because “kids are awful”.


I think I may be as astounded by her answer as I was about the initial video. I assume it means she has either witnessed or been the recipient of similar bullying, or maybe both. That makes me sad, but I also remember how cruel kids can be from my own childhood. Bullying is nothing new, as many of us probably know all too well, and the cure for bullying is empathy.

So my question, dear reader is this:

Can you teach empathy or is it a quality you are born with? How can we help our kids understand their words have power and that we have the ability to wound others with them?

I would really like to hear your thoughts on this, so please leave a comment and share. The more people who join in the discussion the better.

Better Late Than Never: Jumping on the Vlogbrothers Bandwagon

English: Hank and John Green in 2008

English: Hank and John Green in 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you despair of what your kids are learning on the internet, I want to point you (and them) in the direction of the Vlogbrothers. They are the antidote for inane teen and tween fare like The Jersey Shore, Teen Moms and every other crappy piece of entertainment that glorifies acting stupidly and making bad decisions.

For the uninitiated, the Vlogbrothers are Hank and John Greene. Hank is a musician and environmentalist. John is an author. (His novel, The Fault In Our Stars, which my daughter insisted I read, was wonderfully moving. I recommend it…although perhaps with a box of tissues at hand.)

Their vlogs are funny and entertaining, and sometimes very silly. However they are also informative, relevant and apparently, inspiring. They talk about a wide range of subjects from history, math and science, to pop culture, to embracing your inner nerdiness regardless of what those around you may say.

They make it cool to be smart. They encourage uniqueness. They are models of an inquisitive spirit and the importance of paying attention to current events. Of course, they don’t put it that way….they tell their viewers DFTBA (Don’t Forget To Be Awesome) and to fight “world-suck”….and they have a loyal and passionate following, my daughter being one of them. They don’t shy away from sensitive subjects and they communicate with teens and young adults at their level, with great humor and a touch of language (which is bleeped out).

I have just started exploring their vlogs, and I love everything I’ve seen so far. Check them out, or ask your kids if they’ve already checked them out. I’ll leave you with one of their  vlogs and the admonition DFTBA!

I can proudly report that I “got” almost all of the jokes. Had to look up Schrodinger’s cat though, and I’m still not sure I understand the concept. I’ll have to ask a physicist friend to help me out on that one.

That All Too Brief Time When You and Your Parents Are Friends

My parents were 19 years old when I was born which makes them much younger than most of my friends’ parents.  As young as they were, they were very old fashioned when it came to raising children and they never tried to be friends with me and my brother when we were growing up. As a teenager, I often lamented about this and was envious of my friends who seemed to have more of a friendship than a parent/child relationship with their parents. My mom told me many, many times when I was young that she was my mom, not my friend which hurt my feelings as a kid.

I know better now, with the benefit of experience. In fact, when I reflect on my own kids I find that my worst parenting mistakes often come when I’m trying to be a friend instead of a mom. That is not to say that I don’t hope for friendship in the future; I actually think (hope!) I’ll be great friends with my son and daughter when they’re adults. So while I’m knee deep in the jungle that is parenting teenagers, and waiting for that future friendship to begin, I have moved on to a great friendship with my own parents.

While we have the usual bumps in our relationship, we have moved beyond them for the most part. Many of you many have lost your parents at a young age, some of you have relationships that are too difficult emotionally to continue, some of you have hurt that is too deep to reconcile, and so can’t get to the point of true friendship with your parents. Because my parents and I don’t have that kind of baggage, we have been able to become friends and I know that that makes me very lucky.

They came to visit this weekend and it was a blast. You know you’re in a new phase of your relationship when you spend 4 days drinking and laughing, playing games and having deep conversations. Now that I’m in what I guess is early mid-life, and my parents are in late-midlife we have a lot to talk about and we’re more like peers. After a particularly relaxing day today, I was thinking to myself how precious this time really is.

There is only a small amount of time when your mom can ask what you’re reading, have you answer 50 Shades of Grey, and have her answer, “Ooh, how is it? I’ve been dying to start reading that one!” There is only a small amount of time when your husband and dad can talk about the challenges of raising a family over golf, drinks and cigars like buddies.

Eventually, our relationship will change again, and the roles of childhood will reverse. I will be watching out for them, acting as a protector, or advocate, perhaps I’ll turn into the caregiver. But for now, during this fantastic time, I will relish having my parents as my friends.

Time Magazine’s Breastfeeding Cover…A Rant in Two Parts (Part 2)

First of all, thank you to everyone who checked in to Friday’s post! It was a record-breaking day followed by a record-breaking weekend for my little blog, and I appreciate the time you took to read as well as the opportunity to hopefully shed some light on the real scoop behind breastfeeding, and especially extended breastfeeding.

Stepping back for just a moment, to truly discuss this article, we need to understand the myths and facts about Attachment Parenting (AP).

Myth: AP is the latest in a long line of parenting fads.

Fact: The ideas that make up AP are a return to more “primitive” ways of parenting, and have been studied for the past 60 years. While applying all of the ideas of AP in modern life presents difficulties, it’s not because AP is new and unusual, it’s because our hectic lives have outpaced our biology.

Myth: AP is for moms who have a pathological need to keep their children dependent on them.

Fact: The whole goal of AP is to raise independent, yet empathetic children who are capable of forming healthy attachments later in life. The guiding philosophy of AP is that by having a consistent caregiver available to young children they will develop security and trust in their parents which will allow them to then explore their world without fear and become more independent.

Myth: AP requires moms to give up their own lives to cater to their children.

Fact: While AP is very labor intensive, especially for the mother, one of the principles of AP is that there is balance between parenting and personal self care as well as nurturing the relationship between the parents. In fact, the mom at the center of all of this Time Magazine controversy blogs about her experiences with Attachment Parenting and her “about” page states that her goal with the blog is to help other moms figure out how to parent without losing themselves.

Now, here’s the thing, I think there is a knee-jerk reaction to regard AP as being ridiculous, or extreme because the principles involved are different than what most of us grew up with. It’s easy to dismiss and scoff at something we don’t understand, and it’s easy to make pronouncements about AP instead of keeping an open mind and learning about it before forming an opinion. However, I saw a great quote on another blog (Mommy OM at which applies here, and reads:

The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about. – Wayne Dyer

So, what are the basic principles of Attachment Parenting?

  • Beginning before birth: taking care of yourself, and preparing yourself for parenthood before delivery.
  • Feeding with Love and Respect: This means breastfeeding if possible, paying attention to the baby’s hunger cues, and letting the child wean when ready.
  • Respond with Sensitivity: Meaning when babies cry, comfort them, provide physical contact. No “crying it out” or, in older children, telling them to toughen up.
  • Use nurturing touch: Almost constant physical contact for infants, lots of hugs and cuddling, no physical punishment.
  • Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally: Safe Co-sleeping or at least having children in the same room as the parents.
  • Consistant Loving Care: Having a consistant caregiver almost all of the time, this is usually the mom.
  • Positive Discipline: Have a good understanding of the child’s developmental stage so that parents don’t have unrealistic expectations of what behaviors to expect from a child. Praise good behavior and redirect bad behavior without physical punishment or verbal abuse.
  • Strive for balance in Personal and Family Life: As discussed above. This includes taking care of yourself physically through good diet and exercise, and mentally by making sure to indulge in activities that are personally meaningful

I’m guessing that if you’re new to AP philosophy, that as you read this list there were at least a couple of principles that made you roll your eyes. I get it. It seems like a lot of work, and it is, but then again, any parenting that does’t involve outright neglect is a lot of work. Dr Sears, who is probably the best known proponent of Attachment Parenting, is also pretty clear that while the AP principles have good reasons behind them and work together, that each family and each family situation is unique and parents need to figure out what works for them. No guilt. No finger pointing, and certainly no mommy (or daddy) one-upmanship.

I was not an AP parent. I wasn’t really aware of Attachment Parenting when I had my kids, and if I had been, I probably would have felt guilty because I couldn’t have followed all eight precepts. I prepared pretty well before birth, I breastfed, I loved wearing the kids in a sling because it was a hell of a lot more comfortable than carrying around a baby in a car seat and I could get more done than carrying a baby in my arms. However, I also got desperate for sleep and “Ferber-ized” them (do parents do this anymore?), I have been known to yell, and I slapped the occasional hand and swatted the occasional butt. Balance….not so much. I did the best I could with what I knew and was capable of at the time, and my husband and I parented the way that felt right to us….learning as we went.

Now, finally, on to the second part of my Time Magazine Rant. Here is a confession….I didn’t like the cover photo either, just for different reasons than most people.

I should stop for a minute and give the people at Time Magazine who put this picture on the cover a standing ovation. Their job is to generate buzz about their magazine and boost sales. Mission accomplished. Seriously, when was the last time you were this interested in a magazine story? However, in picking the most provocative picture, they missed the boat on the essence of Attachment Parenting. AP is all about closeness and nurturing, but the cover photo does’t show that at all. Mom‘s face looks defiant, playing into all of the ideas/fears that the general public has about parents who practice AP, or just breastfeed past infancy that they think they are superior to the rest of us. She and her son seem disconnected, in spite of the fact that he’s actually breastfeeding at the moment the picture was taken.

I really wish that they had chosen one of the other mom’s they photographed for the cover. Either picture was more representative of the bonding and closeness that I think AP moms are striving for, but even at that, I kind of hate that they are staring out at the camera, and I really, really hate that they are all thin and gorgeous (but maybe that’s just my hang up).

I think this one is my favorite.

Love the way the older brother has his arm wrapped around the baby too.

Which brings me to my final point, the title of the article, “Are You Mom Enough?”….to which I say, “Are you Kidding Me?” That is precisely the type of inflammatory language that gets moms all defensive and upset. As discussed in some of my previous articles, parenting is so personal, and none of us get to know ahead of time what type of child we’ll have, what our feelings will be or what circumstances will surround us. We just plug along the best we can, trying our damnedest to not screw up so badly our kids can’t afford the therapy bills.

Attachment Parenting is a theory, with some good evidence behind it. There are many other theories of parenting with good evidence behind them. What is better for one family may not be better for another, and that’s okay. As always I feel like as long as we keep an open mind and are willing to learn about all kinds of lifestyles, and parenting choices (whether or not we use them ourselves) that is how we’ll move on in a supportive sisterhood of moms.

Ask questions first, then make up your mind. And no mommy wars allowed!

Time Magazine’s Breastfeeding Cover….A Rant in Two Parts (Part 1)

There are times when I forget how sheltered I am working at a birthing center where most moms choose to breastfeed. Then there are days like today.

My Facebook page has blown up with various threads of comments regarding the oh-so-controversial Time Magazine cover depicting a mom breastfeeding her 3 year old son. Now I looked at the cover first and I had some definite thoughts, which I will discuss in part 2 of this post. Then I started scrolling through the comments and really started to feel sick.

There was a mix of disgust, shock and derision. The picture was categorized as pornographic, and the mom as emotionally needy and selfish. Some comments equated extended breastfeeding with the sense of entitlement today’s kids seem to have and some comments equated extended breastfeeding with a right wing conspiracy to keep women at home and out of the workforce.


What all of those comments say to me is that the general public is still in serious need of education about breastfeeding, its benefits to children, and what it is and isn’t.

Before I get to my explanation, let me say once again, like I’ve said before, if you chose to bottle feed or breastfeed for a few days or a few weeks or a few months, I completely support your parenting decision. This is not about vilifying anyone who isn’t nursing their 3 or 4 year old. I “only” nursed my kids 13 months and 15 months, and that felt right for me; I don’t feel guilty about not nursing longer. That said, there is nothing “gross”, “disturbing” or “abusive” about nursing an older child. It’s unusual in our society, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Here are a few points everyone should know about breastfeeding. (I know its long but PLEASE, PLEASE take the time to read.)

1.) Breastfeeding isn’t sexual. At all. – I don’t understand why this is such a hard concept. Yes, breasts are sexy; they are also functional. Women who have nursed understand that their breasts have two separate uses, both important. Can nursing be pleasurable? Yes, of course. There is a whole cascade of hormones that are released when nursing which cause a sense of well-being in the mom, no doubt an evolutionary mechanism to ensure babies got fed long before there was such a thing as formula. However, and this is a big however, a baby or child suckling is very different than when done by a lover. Breastfeeding is not sexual for the mom and certainly not sexual for the child. Seriously people, how many of you are turned on by your mom’s breasts?….I’m guessing the answer is no one, yet to someone at sometime, your mom’s breasts were sexy. I can see some of you gagging out there, but you know it’s true. Different relationships, different functions.

2.)Breastfeeding past infancy while not the cultural norm in the United States is normal and how our bodies are designed. –And until we, as a society, stop and look at the scientific evidence for breastfeeding and realize that there is value in supporting moms who want to nurse for whatever period of time works for them and their children, new moms will continue to have a high failure rate and “fringe” moms who breastfeed beyond infancy will feel shame and keep the practice hidden. Yet according to most, if not all, health organizations, breastfeeding can and should be encouraged, even beyond 2 years.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that “Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child… Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother… There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.(AAP 2005)
  • The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that breastfeeding continue throughout the first year of life and that “As recommended by the WHO, breastfeeding should ideally continue beyond infancy, but this is not the cultural norm in the United States and requires ongoing support and encouragement. It has been estimated that a natural weaning age for humans is between two and seven years. Family physicians should be knowledgeable regarding the ongoing benefits to the child of extended breastfeeding, including continued immune protection, better social adjustment, and having a sustainable food source in times of emergency. The longer women breastfeed, the greater the decrease in their risk of breast cancer.” They also note that “If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned.” (AAFP 2008)

3. Extended breastfeeding has a measurable impact on the mother’s health as well as the child’s health.- There hasn’t been a lot of research into breastfeeding past two years, however the research that has been done so far shows that the same immune system benefits that babies receive while nursing continue throughout the nursing relationship. In the US where we are lucky enough to have decent healthcare and infection prevention, this may not seem like a big deal, but in other parts of the world extended nursing can save lives. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 10% of the deaths of children 5 and under would be prevented by continued breastfeeding. As if that weren’t enough, the longer a mom breastfeeds in her lifetime the lower her risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers.

In case you don’t know, the woman on the right is wearing a nursing cover up.

4. Women who breastfeed in public are not trying to make you uncomfortable or make a statement.-Women who breastfeed in public are simply feeding their babies. I would love for someone to tell me why it’s acceptable for young girls to run around the mall in skimpy tops, but if a mom wants to nurse she should cover up or go to a bathroom because “no one wants to see that”. Most moms I know who nurse in public are very discreet, and don’t want to attract stares and attention. I have never in my life seen someone in public whip out a breast and leave it exposed for any amount of time. For the most part, a baby covers up far more of the breast than today’s fashion does. When a baby needs to eat, it needs to eat, and any mom should be able to feed her baby in any place without fear of reprisal. Personally, when I see a mom nursing in public I try to give her an encouraging word or smile because every time a mom nurses in public, it makes breastfeeding less out-of-the-ordinary and begins to normalize it.

5.Extended breastfeeding is not some new age-y parenting concept.-Actually, it’s the idea of breastfeeding only during infancy that is relatively new in the course of human history. From the La Leche League website:

In a study done of 64 primitive cultures in 1945, it was found that only one culture weaned their children as young as six months. Mothers in China and Japan still nursed their children for four or five years well into the 20th century. During World War II, Burmese children nursed until age three or four. Up until 1950 in Kenya, mothers nursed until five, and in Mongolia mothers nursed until two or three and sometimes as old as six and seven. In New Guinea during the 1960s, children were nursing freely up until two, three, and sometimes four years of age (Bumgarner 2000).

As explained in A Nursing Mother’s Guide to Weaning, Margaret Mead and other anthropologists discovered that mothers wean in the way and at the time that their cultures prescribe and that peaceful, cooperative societies tend to wean later using gentler methods. Furthermore, it has been estimated the median age of weaning throughout the world is between ages three and five. That’s years, not months.

Here’s the thing, we know that in modern society we’ve figured out how to survive without extended breastfeeding, but what we don’t know is what the lasting effects are. We may have guesses or opinions but in the absence of research, it’s all just conjecture. So what gives anyone the right to speak authoritatively about the detrimental effects of extended breastfeeding, telling moms they need to stop what they’re doing, or that they are damaging their children, when really it looks like the opposite may be true, contrary to our social mores? The answer I guess is that anyone has the right to say anything….but that doesn’t make it right.

Whew…..that’s a lot of information, and if you’re still with me I appreciate you taking the time to perhaps get a new perspective. Please share this post so that as many people as possible can hopefully learn something new. On Monday, I have a lot more to say about the picture that Time used, and especially the title of the article. See you then!

Comprehensive Sex Education: Just Do It!

My poor kids…..having a labor and delivery nurse for a mom means never knowing when they’re going to be cornered in the house or trapped in a car with me and be forced to discuss sex. Can’t you picture the scene? I walk into a room where some unsuspecting kid is hanging out with a, “So, we need to talk about (fill in the blank)…”

Cue the eye roll, the sigh and the “Oh, mom.”

I won’t say I’m not uncomfortable with it, because sometimes I am, but seeing what I’ve seen in my career I am under no illusions about what teenagers can get up to when left to their own devices. And I always figured that if there were any holes in my choice of topics to discuss, that at least they would be discussed in sex ed classes which I knew my school district offered. So when the time came for my oldest to attend class I dutifully went to the parent meeting beforehand so I would know what the kids were going to learn. It never occurred to me that what they were going to be learning was how dangerous sex is both physically, emotionally and legally.

The mind boggles…..

I really, really want someone to explain to me the point of Abstinence Only sex ed, because as I see it the only point is to assuage the fears of parents who want to believe that if they tell kids “Just say no.” and some other adult type says the same thing, that will be that and they need never worry about their child having premarital sex.  Oy vey.

It just doesn’t work like that, and studies have shown this to over and over again. Kids with comprehensive sex ed have lower numbers of unplanned pregnancies and actually lose their virginity at an older age than kids who have abstinence only sex ed.

Information is so easy to come by nowadays. It used to be that kids would find out the juicy tidbits about sex from a friend with an older sibling or for the guys it was a friend who managed to get a copy of Playboy, hell, if all else failed there was always National Geographic…but information about sex was usually more about hearsay than actual knowledge. Today, any technologically savvy 10 year old can find out anything he or she would like, and probably some things they wouldn’t like, over the internet. They know if they’re not being told the whole story.

I hope I have instilled some values and a sense of the importance of sex to my kids. I would like for them to wait until they are much older and more mature before they have sex, but who are we kidding? What we want our kids to choose and what they actually choose are often two very different things. What I want my kids to know above anything else is that they can come to me or my husband to talk, that even if we can’t prevent what we may think is too early a sexual initiation, we can arm them with the information to prevent a pregnancy or an STD.

The analogy I think of is this: I don’t want my teens to drink alcohol. I know about the dangers of doing so from the minor (getting sick) to the major (alcohol poisoning) to the life-changing (driving and getting into an accident), and I also remember the allure of partying with friends. While I hope they are able to make responsible choices I have also provided them with alternatives if they do decide to drink. The fact that they know they can call for a ride if they’ve been drinking doesn’t make me think they’re more likely to drink; it means that they won’t feel forced into a worse situation than the one they already find themselves in.

Finally, my last big problem with abstinence only sex ed is that it seems to me that when you spend a kid’s whole adolescence telling them all of the bad things that can happen if you have sex, it will be hard for them to see sex as natural, healthy and fun when they get older. As I alluded to earlier in this article, I’ve seen a lot of teens with unintended pregnancies and STDs, but I’ve also seen a lot of grown women with unbelievable inhibitions surrounding sex which causes them so much pain, sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally, and that makes me sad for them, because they are missing out on something special. I don’t want my kids to turn me into a grandmother any time soon, but I will not guilt them or scare them into an inhibited adulthood either.


Related articles

States with ‘abstinence-only’ sex ed programs rank highest in teen pregnancies (

Religious Practices: Where Do We Draw the Line?

Seriously, I’m asking because I think it’s such a difficult question to answer.

A friend of mine is big on anti-circumcision advocacy, and she posts articles about it on her FaceBook page pretty frequently. (Yup, I’ve talked about birth choice and breastfeeding, and now I’m gonna mention circumcision-the newborn parenting trifecta!) She is against all types of circumcision, both male and female, religious and non-religious. (I won’t mention my own feelings out of deference to my son’s privacy.)

Recently she posted an article which grabbed my attention. In it a proud Islamic mom is recounting her baby daughter’s circumcision, gushing about how good the baby was and how quick and easy it was. (I should mention that in this particular case, the way the procedure was done was that they removed the teeniest, tiniest piece of skin. Basically just enough to draw a drop of blood.) As you can imagine there were loads of comments calling her excitement over this procedure barbaric….and that got me wondering why we (in the US) are so up in arms about female circumcision, but so comfortable with male circumcision. Why do we classify someone else’s religious prescriptions as barbaric and our own as normal?

Now, most parents in the US circumcise their boys for secular reasons, and that’s not the argument that is intriguing to me because with secular arguments you can go back and forth and try to convince the other side of your point of view, but as soon as it becomes a religious issue it’s difficult to argue. And that got me wondering, when someone claims religious freedom for a particular practice, when is it OK and when is it over the line?

Now my musings on this go beyond circumcision to all types of religious and cultural practices. Things like mores for female modesty (male modesty never seems to be in the picture though…hmm). Many religions expect long skirts, and sleeves and high collars, some require that and head coverings, and some veils. Are all those okay, and if so, why then do we become outraged at the thought of the niqab or burqa?

Christian Scientists will seek medical help for things like broken bones, but not illnesses, while Jehovah’s Witnesses will not accept blood transfusions. As a healthcare professional, and not a member of one of those religions, I don’t agree with or understand those beliefs, but I can’t force someone to accept treatment in opposition to their faith. Where is the line there? Someone deciding for themselves is one thing, but what about when there’s a child involved and it’s a matter of life and death?

I couldn't afford heath insurance so I became a Christian Scientist.

Then there is the religion debate that I really don’t understand, the line between personal religious/moral conviction and expanding it to the broader community. Here we’re talking about things like amending the Constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman, teaching creationism in public school science classes and my all time favorite (where, oh where is the sarcasm font when you need it) abstinence-only sex ed classes.

Ignore the naughty bits!

So I put it to you dear reader. What are your thoughts about the line between religious freedoms and other freedoms? Please comment and let me know your perspective. I look forward to hearing from you.