Category Archives: relationships

If It’s Not About Choice, It’s Not Feminist

0051 Family Photos 12-2-13

Another post related to feminism and motherhood! *Gasp*

I obviously believe that our culture’s treatment of women in general and mothers particularly are integrally linked.

I read a piece designed to infuriate me. It was judgmental and sanctimonious to the core. I realize I was being manipulated. It was designed to upset me and use that emotional response to bump hit numbers to be able to command more advertising dollars. I won’t dignify the piece with a link to it though. If you really want to read it so you know why I am so bothered, do a search for “I Look Down on Young Women With Husbands and Kids and I’m Not Sorry” by Amy Glass. Even though this piece inspired my thoughts here, my thoughts here can stand on their own, so you don’t have to read it if you don’t want to lend your implicit support to the people making money off of others’ emotional responses. You will still understand what I am saying here.

Any statement indicating something that women should or should not do is inherently not feminist. Feminism is about providing choice and options so that women can make the right choices for them. And the right choice for one woman might be different than the right choice for every other woman on the planet, but she should still be free to make that choice. Laws or social expectations that curtail women’s choice on an unequal ground with men’s choices are the ones feminism seeks to change. Should a woman be free to steal? No, because men aren’t free to steal. We want women to have the same legal freedoms as men.

A woman should be free to seek a career, even after having a family or while raising her children, even if she doesn’t need the money. She should be free to stay home with her kids if she wants without social pressure to work, especially if she has no financial need to work. Her husband should likewise have those same options and both should be able to make those choices without being told they are in some way inferior to people who made different choices. Women should be free to make their own medical decisions, even through pregnancy and childbirth. Obstetrics is the last refuge of misogynist doctors who want to tell women to lie down and shut up and that needs to change. Any argument that seeks to box all women into any choice, even if it’s the most popular one, is not feminist.

If a woman is making choices that make her happy, celebrate with her, even if those choices wouldn’t be right for you. The point is her happiness, right? There is no one-size fits all solution for all women. We all have different personalities, different wants, dreams, emotional needs and we all have different methods for trying to achieve them.

Any method that attempts to achieve the same ends but with force is inherently misogynist. No one, not even another woman, can know what is best for a specific woman better than herself. To tell a woman that you know what she needs or wants better than she does is the essence of misogyny. Rather than attempt to force one very limited view onto an entire gender, we should seek to free women to make the choices they feel are best for themselves, without fear of social repercussions. Denigrating women for choices we might not make ourselves is just rude.

For Your Consideration

I was pondering this morning on how everything follows the rules to which it was constructed. All animals act on instinct and never deviate from it. All inanimate objects behave in the way they are constructed, always. The only animals that don’t behave that way are humans. We can choose to act as we are designed or we can choose to act differently. We are built on a genetic template and we are further refined by the actions our parents choose, but we also have the option to break those molds and move forward in a way that we choose, independent of either of those things.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I decided on an unmedicated birth, mostly because my mom had had me that way. I felt like I would breastfeed for about a year because that was how long she nursed me. After a lot of research, I have actively chosen to birth my babies without medication and to nurse them as long as we are both comfortable, rather than putting a glass ceiling on at a year, but that was long after my son was born. I parented him based on my instincts, which came straight out of how I was raised. Our child-rearing choices can have far-reaching consequences for many generations because so many people do as their parents did without question. Makes me think much more carefully about the kind of parent I want to be.

Mommy Daughter Day

Ginnie has been having some difficulties with a friend being bossy and bullying her into breaking the rules. This has been bothering me for some time, but I didn’t know what to say or how to address it, so I sat watching it for awhile because I also didn’t want to make it worse. On Wednesday I decided to spend the day with her to see if any inspiration struck. We made bacon buddies (cream cheese sandwiches wrapped in bacon and broiled,) and bread pudding, we gardened, we did laundry, we put the bike trailer on and we rode bikes (Bri participated in that activity too) and we played Feed the Kitty and Slamwich. The day was packed full and it was all activities we could do together. We talked about her friend and about bullies. We talked about how to respond. We also talked about the rules she had broken and how the rules are there to protect her and keep her safe. While we were dropping Aiden off at his martial arts class, she asked me if we could have a mommy daughter day every week. I hope this was the inspiration I’ve been seeking.

Apple Skins and Cleaning House

Sometimes the meat of the apple is the best we can do.

Bri refuses to eat the skin of apples. She leaves bits of apple skin around if the apple hasn’t been cut before she started eating it. This used to drive me batty. I’m choosing to look at it in a new way though: At least she’s eating the meat. For the past few months, I’ve been buying apples that are pre-cut because then they don’t sit in the fridge for months without getting used or eaten. The kids will snack on these. They are more expensive. In fact, they are much more expensive. But they don’t go bad, so I see it as a win. Though I have done some physical cleaning today, my house cleaning is more mental and emotional today. I cleaned a silverware holder that still had crumbs in it from the crack in the counter from the cabin in Tennessee. I have some mental and emotional crumbs I need to clear out as well. So today, I take stock of my life and my attributes: What could I do better? What am I doing well? I could stand to be a little kinder, a little quieter, a little more flexible, a little more loving and a little less abrasive to the people around me. I haven’t yet mastered eating all the skins either, but I’m at least aiming for the meat.

Part Nine of Many: The Montessori Life: Troubled Kids in Your Classroom

For any number of reasons, you might have troubled kids in a Montessori Classroom. Traditionally, this wouldn’t be a problem if you’re homeschooling, unless you take in foster children and have license from the state you’re living in to school your foster children in your home rather than the local public school, but if you’re teaching in a private school, or you have set up a private school in your home, the chances are that at least one of your students (out of your 30 kid classroom) will have emotional problems or be otherwise “troubled.”

One of the great things about the Montessori Method is that it was originally developed for the “unteachable” (read: the poor, mentally or physically challenged) so there are aspects of Montessori that can reach out to any child. The normalization period is going to be longer for a child who acts out or shuts down but it can happen, and if you are patient and tenacious, it will happen. There are some things you can do to minimize the lean times until the child has reached the same level as the rest of your class.

-Be sure you encourage appropriate behavior and provide reasonable consequences when the child acts out.
-Be patient and treat the child with the same expectations as the rest of the class.

I promise, it will be ok. Just give it time. He will normalize, just like the rest of the children in your class did.

Some Thoughts to Consider on Homeschooling

I’ve had an interesting past few weeks. I apologize for disappearing from the world and not writing for awhile. I moved and in the process got sick, so I’m recovering, and in the meantime, I had some thoughts on homeschooling that I felt like I needed to share.

Someone in my new neighborhood asked me if I would be putting my kids into public school, to which I replied that, no, I planned to homeschool them. The immediate response I got was, “What about socialization?”

My thought on public school’s effectiveness in socializing our children is pretty well summed up by Ghandi (I believe): It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a sick society. I don’t think that exposing my kids to the cruelties of other small children benefits them at all, and I think that it probably has the opposite effect. It doesn’t make kids tougher, it demoralizes them and makes them feel weak and small. There are plenty of opportunities to experience those feelings in life, and we don’t need to promote them through the public school system. I have two children, both of whom are terribly bright, and one is tougher than nails. The other is very sensitive and really needs no further prodding to convince him that he isn’t good enough just the way he is. He already feels inadequate and desperately tries to please everyone around him, rather than doing the things he knows will make him happy. There are a number of other places for him to play with other children and find friends. Play groups, homeschooling support groups, extra curricular activities like dance, soccer, basketball, baseball, football, gymnastics, horsebackriding, girl scouts or boy scouts and church groups are just a few of the places that children can find alternative ways of making friends.

Part Six of Many: The Montessori Life: Disciplining Small Children

Whether you have a preschool or kindergarten classroom, or you have toddlers and young children at home, there are many ways to approach discipline. The way you discipline should be in direct correlation with the kind of crime that’s been committed, and before you decide what punishments to mete out, there are a few things about small children of which you should be aware.
1. Toddlers have no impulse control. They are incredibly tactile little creatures, and if they see something that they find interesting, they want to touch it, hold it and maybe even mouth it to understand it better. Rather than telling children “no” all the time, it’s much easier if you put the things you don’t want them to handle up high where they can’t reach. Obviously this is true of things that break. Consider putting books, electronics, important papers, remote controls, movies and anything else you don’t want them to touch, up out of the way. Put other objects that they can’t hurt within their reach. You’re best off with bright colors and soft materials for kids just learning to be mobile. Find objects with interesting tactile sensations or things that keep kindergarten age hands busy (paper, scissors and glue, crayons and coloring books or toys that help develop hand-eye coordination.
2. Choose your battles. Kids start asserting their independence when they’re about 2 (though some are more precocious than others) and push boundaries to figure out how social situations work and to get to know their parents and teachers better. Toddlers are master manipulators and have no scruples about doing whatever they can to get their own way. You’ll go nuts if you try to control every action, so choose the ones that affect their safety or the safety of others and fight battles worth winning. Reserve yelling for situations like these so your kids recognize that it’s actually important and it leaves an impression. If they want to wear a yellow shirt and purple pants, just let it go.
3. Kids throw tantrums. They mostly do this when they feel like they’re being misunderstood, and you’re telling them “no” and it feels arbitrary to them. Bear in mind that they also throw tantrums over things that wouldn’t normally bother them if they’re tired, hungry or under a lot of stress. You can cut a tantrum off at the pass if while you see it coming, you stay calm and try to reason with the child. Ask him to explain what he wants and why, and you respond logically. If the tantrum happens anyway, hold the child firmly in your arms so he can’t flail and hurt you, himself, someone else or something else until he stops struggling and screaming. Reward him for stopping by loosening your grip or letting go. This is a great way for him to learn that tantrums are unacceptable behavior without you scaring him. This takes some patience in the beginning. If a tantrum is limited to crying, tell the child you’ll talk to him when he’s ready to talk, but not while he’s crying and then remind him that you’ll talk when he’s ready to talk and not before until he stops crying. If he grabs for your attention, repeat that you’re just waiting for him to stop crying so he can talk to you, and you’ll be glad to talk to him when he does.
4. If a kid is hurting other kids, remove him from the situation and hold him firmly until he’s ready to be respectful to others. If he squirms or gets angry with you, tell him that you’ll gladly let him go when he’s ready to be respectful to others. This also works if you have Montessori works around and he’s not treating them as he should. Gentle restraint for a rowdy kid helps calm him and teach him the proper and respectful behavior in the classroom.
5. Give your kids play time when it’s OK to be loud, and to run. Little kids have enormous amounts of energy. Don’t ever let kids get away with hurting each other, even if they’re running around outside, but don’t try to keep them cooped up and calm all day, either.
6. In this day and age where teachers have unfortunately become adults that can’t be trusted to behave appropriately around small children, many schools have decided that teachers are no longer aloud to touch or hold children at any age, at all. If all you are permitted to do is speak to a child who is acting out, I can guarantee that for preschoolers and kindergarteners, the behavior will not improve. Ever. Avoid working for schools that have a strict no touching policy, if you can, because firstly, you’ll drive yourself nuts and secondly, toddlers and preschoolers sometimes need to be held. They need the physical contact, because anything you say needs to be backed up by actions. They need to know that their teacher cares about them as individuals. They need to know that certain behaviors are unacceptable, and if they choose not to listen you will help them to follow the instructions with your own hands. They also need to know that you will do your best to protect them from physical harm, and sometimes that means physically removing them from a situation. This is yet another reason why it’s best to have another adult around at all times: So you have a witness. Explain that sometimes you have to hold the children, and most parents will understand. If they don’t, they can take their kid to a different school. The Montessori method is about teaching kids in a clean, caring, low-stress environment, and there is no way to do that if your only recourse for unacceptable behavior is raising your voice to get small children to tow the line.
The bottom line to disciplining is teaching children that certain behaviors are unacceptable. If they are restrained gently when they engage in harmful or disrespectful behaviors and released when they’re ready to act the way they should, they catch on pretty quickly. Start small and work your way up. If your classroom is really crazy and you can’t maintain the peace alone, ask for an assistant or two to help keep things going when one or two people need to be held until they’re ready to rejoin the group. If you’re just getting started, start with two kids in your class and add others gradually so you can focus on helping the new ones adapt and they catch on to the rules. This is the ideal way to maintain the peace in your classroom. Too many small children added too quickly is just a recipe for anarchy.