Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Should children get to define their own faith?

     So I just read this fascinating article on child liberation theology. The premise of liberation theology is just so up my alley, and I very much need to learn more about it. It began with the political struggles in Central and Latin America Catholic Churches during the 50s and 60s, lead by Gustavo Gutierrez.  The central idea of the the movement is to move the focus of Christianity away from the powerful: the Magisterium, the rich,, the people "doing it right" who lecture outcasts on their sins, and instead refocus creating justice for the poor, the marginalized, and oppressed.  The essential tenet is that each human has the right to create their own faith, and that each human has the "God-given right to speak about God from their own unique perspective" without judgement or lecture from dominant powers.
     So any good liberal will immediately have the reaction of, "Well, duh, obviously", (and score seven lefty bonus points if the liberal says it while drinking fair-trade coffee).  However, when it comes to kids, I am not sure I am entirely on board with this idea.  Children developing their own theology?  How would that even work? For older children, I can see this as a possibility, and developing a person theology is a necessity to keep a teenagers involved and growing in their faith, but for children under say...nine, I'm not sure its a good idea.  For my daughter, Jesus lives in the same space as unicorns; I'm not sure that she is really able to theorize on  the nature of God...in the way I want her to.  It's hard for me to let her have her own faith journey, when I really just want her to believe exactly what I believe, because, you know, I'm right.
     Yes, I hear myself, yes I know that I am completely unfair.  Amani needs to have her own faith journey, and I need to be okay with that, because that is how authentic faith works.   I definitely don't want her to think that faith is dictated by some outsider, or that she needs to uncritically agree with everything any one tells her about Catholicism.  That said, I still think it is important to educate her on what our faith is, what it means, and how to develop the skills necessary for creating a fulfilling faith.
     According to the article, the parent, priest or instructor with a child liberative philosophy must teach a child the skills of "taking power, of becoming self-defining and self-actualizing".  However, like so many of these "what you should be doing" articles, the piece doesn't actually tell you how to do that, especially not with a four-year-old.
     The way I see it, parents can introduce skills by setting up an environment that promotes critical thinking.  I liked this article from the roots of action.  I like that the article explains that parents should establish that thinking can be fun, encourage their children to think, and praise them when they do ("Wow!  You were really thinking carefully about that!  Good for you!")  It has some good suggestion on how to set up an atmosphere at home that encourages kids to thoughtfully develop their own opinions, without disrespecting others. Their five suggestions include:

  • Encouraging kids to be clear in their speaking, and to ask questions if they are not clear what others are saying.  "Did what I said make sense?  Do you have any questions?"
  • Making sure children speak with accuracy:  When a child is arguing or complaining, insist that they don't exaggerate or (obviously) lie.  "I NEVER by you toys?  That's not true at all.  You need be careful when you speak, or people won't listen to you."
  • Support logical thinking: Challenge your child to explain their thinking process.  "He says he's a cheetah, huh?  Do you think that's true or he's just pretending?  How come?"
  • My favorite suggestion, and probably the hardest part, is to encourage kids to be fair when they disagree with each other; to consider another person's thought process.  "She said you can't come to your birthday party?  Why do you think she might have said that?  How do you think she is feeling?  Why might she feel that way?  Do you think you might feel that way if that happen to you?"

     Now God knows my children have opinions, and are very eager to express them.  Still, I think allowing them to share their feelings and opinions is an important way of showing them respect and make them feel valued.  So, if I want them to be able to share their thoughts, it's equally important to teach them to do it appropriately and logically.  As I say this, there is a part of me that is rolling it's eyes, "Riiiight, I'll just teach my children to logically explain why they are licking the bottom of the garbage can. That is definitely going to happen."
    It will happen though.  I think parents have to keep reinforcing this stuff with their kids, even though it is going to take their kids 30 years to get the fundamentals.  It's these kind of skills that are going to teach kids to be secure in thoughtfully doing what is right.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

How has Hallmark gotten on board with this?

     I am collecting Catholic celebrations that I can have with my kids. We don't do Church, and we don't even really pray (I know, I KNOW; I'M WORKING ON IT!!!) , but I am all about having tiny celebrations for any and everything.  In fact, you can just call me tiny-celebration-lady, because it's pretty much my thing.
     Oh my goodness, Catholicism has SOO many tiny parties.  There is one just about everyday.  I just love 'em: they break up the drudgery of routine, they set the rhythm to the year, and give this pattern for reflection, and kinda honor how ordinary things are sacred.  And so many of them are just really fun and have baked treats.
     I recently I read about "Candlemas", and now I am in love with it.  For starters, it's timing is perfect. Right when the post-Christmas blahs start, around late January/ early Feburary, you get this cute little holiday, Candlemas, on Feburary 2nd.  (Secularinos might know this as "Groundhogs day". Yes, you heard that right.  Candlemas is just another example of how the main stream media is stamping out our traditional Christian values and replacing them with their pro-groundhog agenda. Thanks Obama.)
     Like a lot of Catholic holidays, (if not all Catholic holidays), Candlemas is an adoption of a pagan celebration.  This one in particular has roots in the Gaelic celebration honoring Brigid, the goddess of springtime and general awesomeness.  Let's just peruse her Wikipedia entry shall we?  She's associated with "the spring season, fertility, healing, poetry and smithcraft", "wisdom, excellence, perfection, high intelligence, poetic eloquence, craftsmanship (especially blacksmithing), healing ability, druidic knowledge and skill in warfare".  She's pretty kick-ass.
Candlemas Bells.  Squee!
     We never celebrated this in my home growing up, so I had to do a little research, (You can too if you want to check out some of the links below.)  The more I read about it, the more I came to realize that not only is this holiday pleasantly feminist and perfectly times, but it is simply hands-down adorable. Something about it is so endearing: candles and springtime, lambs, and planting gardens. With all the adorable symbols and hopeful themes, naturally there are just a ton of cute ways to celebrate: holding little feasts with doves and candle-shaped cookies, or reading stories about sheep or going to a sheep shearing. So cute!

Sigh. We didn't do any of those things.

But, you know, maybe we will some day; or maybe you will, and you can tell me how it went.

    What we did do is say, "Happy Candlemas" to people, looked out the window for signs of spring, and then two days later planted some tulips.  Amani liked it.  Whenever she sees spring flowers she shouts, "Thank you Candlemas!"  In my book, that is a complete score.

Links for background on Candlemas:

Sex, Lies and Duck Bills

     We have got to do better by our girls.  Seriously.  With the recent explosion over Miley Cyrus and then the tragic suicide of a victim of statutory rape, the "slut shaming" of our girls needs to stop.  This article by Kimberly Hall, which has been making the rounds on Facebook finally pushed me over the edge this morning.  In the article Ms. Hall warns her sons' female friends that, despite the fact that the girls are charming, have many interests and seem like lovely people, even one sexually suggestive photo of themselves on Facebook will result in a "block" from the Hall boys' Facebook feed.  This stance is taken in order to protect her sons.
     I truly believe that Ms. Hall is trying to live a virtuous life as best she can, and that she wants to raise noble and virtuous men who respect women.  I don't think she necessarily harbors these young girls any ill will; she uses a tone that obviously tries to be motherly and kind.  That said, I am not sure what she is protecting her sons from.  Boobs?  Pouty lips?  Her sons' own sexual imaginations?  They are between the ages of 13 and 16 so...she is going to have a lot of work to do.
     Don't get me wrong: I don't think those girls should be posting sexually suggestive pictures of themselves on the internet, first and foremost because most of these poor girls really just end up making themselves look like ducks with back problems.
      And that is because they are stupid, immature kids.  We need to remember that.  They are not harlots out trick our men into having sex.  They worked hard on those photos, choosing their outfits, getting their hair so it looks a little like Selena Gomez's.  They want boys to notice them, to be with them, to give them assurance of their value and they are experimenting with what society claims is their only one true asset.  We are failing our girls and blaming them for it.
     And all this slut shaming- whether it be blaming a rape victim,
or a Facebook modesty post- really only exacerbate the problem.  Girls do not need to "teach men to love them for who they are" and men do not need to "protect a woman's dignity".  Such bullshit.  Society, especially the Church, needs to advocate for the value of women other than their physical appearance. Society, especially the Church, needs to realize that young girls have dignity regardless of their sexual status.  Finally, society- especially The Church- needs to advocate for socially acceptable ways for girls to gain power outside of using sex appeal.

Friday, April 15, 2016

I am a firm believer that all religious traditions should have at least some element of the ridiculous

    I started reading The Catholic Home some time back, and I've been trying to integrate some of the ideas into our house.  The author suggested trying to wean our house off of the more secular symbols and introduce a few more faith-related.  With regards to Easter, she suggested that we try to downplay the Easter bunny and eggs, and decorate more with lambs and crosses.  I don't know how much we are downplaying the Easter bunny and egg thing; we definitely aren't giving up our neighbor's annual Easter egg hunt, and she can pry Cadbury Cream Eggs from my cold dead hands- but the lamb symbol actually fits very nicely into one of my favorite Easter traditions.  
    Every Easter when I was little, my mom made a carrot cake in a lamb mold, and frosted it with coconut frosting.  She left a the nose and ears unfrosted, placed raisins for the eyes, then sat him on a silver platter in Easter grass, sprinkled with jelly beans.  

     Then, usually, his head would fall off.

     One year, the frosting just refused to hold the back and the front of the lamb together and the little guy just split right down the middle.

     The cakes I've made for my own family have fared just about as well.

     I don't know why it is so hard to make this lamb cake, but it really is very difficult, and I have to say, I find it hilarious.  There are all kinds of cute little lamb molds you can buy that are much cuter and probably easier to complete, but I like to go old school.  I use the old-fashioned, Nordic Ware mold and really get a kick out of seeing how it turns out.  We do a spice cake, because though carrot cake might be more seasonally appropriate, spice cake is way better.  Also, coconut is a no-go at my house, so we just do standard vanilla frosting. Unfortunately, this year- I don't know why- the frosting just kept rolling off the stupid cake.  Not only would the back not stick to the front, but the poor little lamb's face just kept melting off like he had looked into the Ark of The Covenant. Poor little guy. I lay him down on his back, frosted him really fast and the stuck him in the fridge.
     It worked, but when I took it out it felt like it weighed 15 pounds, and sort of looked like it had been made out of Elmers glue.  Amani, who had been very excited to help me decorate the little lamb, jammed several banners made out of drinking straws and hand-drawn pictures of the Easter bunny.
     Frankly, I think it makes a very interesting commentary on the way secular society is overwhelming the original message of Jesus' sacrifice.  I'm sure that's what she was going for.
     It still tasted good.
    At least the head stayed on.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Celebrating Lent with Children: A guide for the lazy and forgetful

     I'm taking the integration of Catholic customs a little bit slow around the house.  Now, I love holidays and traditions and little parties and stuff, and believe me, I have all kinds of celebrations all planned out to execute someday, but the kids are still little, and I barely have the brain space to remember what day of the week it is, let alone where we are in the ecumenical calendar.  So, while some of our "celebrations" essentially amounted to discussing what Amani did in preschool, we have plenty of time to get fancy later.

Lent, blah, blah..yay! Pancakes!
     Fat Tuesday was met with a lot of enthusiasm.  We were babysitting for a friend that day, so her two little ones got to celebrate with us. We did it full affect: chocolate-chip pancakes with syrup.  One year we did some ham and beans in honor of Mardi Gras, and maybe one year we'll do  a king cake, but I thought pancakes were enough this year.  I tried to explain that Lent was a time without of treats, so we were having lots of treats now, but I'm not sure how much that sank in; pancakes can be very distracting.

     We didn't do Ash Wednesday.  I know. I know.  Ash Wednesday is a big one Catholic-wise: official start of Lent: reflection, remembering death, sin; heavy heavy stuff.  We just didn't get to it this year.  Next year we'll do something.

We did do other things for Lent though.  I checked out "The Easter Collection" from the library and read a few stories.  It's a nice book with lovely illustrations.  Most of the stories were a little above Amani's level, but she enjoyed looking at the pictures and liked story about the children waiting for a man named Easter.  I pushed the words "sacrifice" big time around the house, reminding everybody that that Jesus scarified for us.  And we made pretzels, noting how they look like crossed praying arms.

See, Ash Wenesday: book and carbohydrates.  That's what it takes around here.

So now we are in Holy Week, and while we are not batting one hundred celebration-wise, (Can I spin watching Paw Patrol in pajamas as a traditional Palm Sunday celebration?) I've still got some stuff we can get to.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Give us sugar-loaded carbohydrates and a few books, and my family is pretty much down for anything.

Yay!  It's Lent!  I'm pretty excited to try to get Amani into all the Lent stuff this year.  She was really into all the Christmas traditions, and seemed to really understand so much of  the Christmas Story, so now I am very excited to teach her more about Catholic holidays.  Admittedly, she may not get as excited about 40 days of fasting, prayer and abstinence as I do, but we'll figure something out.

Pancakes: I'll hook her with pancakes, and books.

I mean, come on.
     This year I am thinking of using Make Room, but I have to give it a more careful investigation.  I have found I occasionally have to do a preview of the Christian children's books I read to my kids, just to double check they are the form of Christianity I want to teach.  Some people are far more eager to discuss the gory details of the Bible with their children than I am.

     I bought The Easter Story by Patricia Pingry and I thought it would be great. It had these sweet little illustrations of Jesus surrounded by children and seemed very simple and gentle. Then, we got to the part where they  mention the Romans nailing Jesus' hands and feet to The Cross, and then, naturally, Jesus dying.  I'm not sure what I was expecting, really.  It is not as though I was unaware of that plot point; I guess I just thought that detail would be sort of downplayed in a book for preschoolers.  I know; it is a little hard to talk about the resurrection of Christ without mentioning that Christ died, but Amani's four, and pretty sensitive: Jesus' death only made the story scary, and the lesson was completely missed.

     I tried another of Pingry's Books, The Story of Easter, and I feel like that did a really fantastic job of teaching the gist of the Easter story, while still being comforting and joyful for a preschooler.

     Generally, I highly suggest Patricia Pingry books.  We have two of them at home, and they are very sweet and clear, and have cute illustrations in which Jesus is a brown person.  (Side bar: As everybody knows, each portrayal of brown Jesus in your household earns you ten points on your Social-Liberal score card.)

Anyway, there are a ton of books out there to get me started, plus like 10 million craft ideas on Pinterest.  Somehow, I am going to get this child loving Lent as much as I do, no matter how much syrup it takes.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Well I'm gonna to go then! And I don't need any of this. I don't need this stuff, and I don't need *you*. I don't need anything. Except this. And that's the only thing I need is *this*.The ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need... And this remote control. - The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that's all I need... And these matches...

      I love Lent, what with the prayer, and fasting, and whatnot.  I will admit it is not exactly SUPER fun, but it is so freeing.  It's like a good hard run the morning after a really big dinner; it's just refreshing.  Purging all the crap and getting right down to the important stuff.  This year I did this mostly literally and not so much spiritually.  We are moving and spiritual reflection has proven somewhat difficult.  Believe it or not, watching a newly walking baby and a fairly rambunctious three-year old while also trying to  pack up all our belongings and get our house ready for sale is not as easy as it sounds.  Moving, however, does necessitate a garage sale, which is kind of like spiritual reflection.
     Oh.  My.  God.  We have so much crap.
     I feel like I just want to take a snow shovel and throw it all into a furnace.
       People often say that when they start packing up their belongings they realize how much stuff they don't need, but honestly I am really baffled by how much stuff our family does need.  Why?  WHY do I need fancy dishes for holidays? Where did all these vases even come from?  Do the kids really need all these toys?  WHY? Why do we need this rug? or this table?  or these shoes?  Is it really worth packing them all up?  I HATE EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!
     Never mind that my sister is also moving and, as she brought things to the garage sale, I would immediately carry it into my house like a crazy hoarder.  It's just that all her stuff is so pretty! and there is no poop on it.
     Sigh.  Sometimes I think we are moving just because that house is cleaner than ours.

What was I talking about before?

Oh, yes.  Lent and getting rid of crap.
Yeah, maybe I did less of that than I had previously imagined.
But you know what I DID do?  I made Amani a place mat.  prayer place mat.  See?  That's pretty Lent-ish.
Cute little place mat in a terrible little photo.

     I was thinking that, although Amani goes to a Catholic preschool, we don't really incorporate Catholicism into our daily lives at all.  We don't talk about God, or Jesus.  We don't pray.  We don't go to church.  I mean, how would she know we are Catholic at all right?  So, since Lent has the prayer element in it, I decided that we should start praying before meals.  I had been wanting to pray before meals.  It seems like the perfect time to pause and give thanks, and reflect for all the work that goes into our meal.  But, I would always forget.  (I get very excited about food.)
     So, the place mat.  At first I didn't really have an accompanying prayer I just knew the things that I wanted Amani to reflect on.  I took some of Amani's finger paint paper, and drew the main ideas, then laminated it at it OfficeMax.  Amani was obsessed with it for a short time; I think we prayed about ten times she first day. Once we practiced a bunch of times, we had kind of figured out a rhyme and rhythm.  We say:
We thank you for the sun, the rain and the soil
The animals that give, and the hands that toil
for our family both far and near
and all of those that we hold dear
For running and playing and all of our friends
and for Your love that never ends.
So that totally counts.
See, God?  See?!  I am totally trying here!
That means You're gonna help me pack, right?